Corner Laughers

Poppy Seeds

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The Corner Laughers play contemporary sunshine pop so bright and shiny that you'll instinctively reach for your sunglasses, and so colorful and charming you won't mind the glare one bit. Proud children of the Golden State, the Corner Laughers pull off an impressive high-wire act on their third album, Poppy Seeds. This is beautifully crafted pop music that overflows with joy and good cheer, but without sounding affected or saccharine, and for all the sweet-as-honey harmonies and Wrecking Crew-worthy instrumental interplay, the music feels honest and organic, and is leavened with a sense of humor that adds to the fun while keeping the music's feet firmly on the ground. Most California bands singing about one of their hometown landmarks would pick something besides the headquarters of an insurance company, but "Transamerica Pyramid" is a tongue-in-cheek celebration of the Bay Area's tallest skyscraper, and when the Virgin Mary appears in Karla Kane's toast in "Twice the Luck," she not only speaks but has reasonably good advice about life in general. Most of the 12 songs on Poppy Seeds are deeply rooted in '60s and '70s pop, but the accelerated tempo and crashing drums on "(Now That I Have You I'm) Bored" push it firmly into pop-punk territory (albeit pop-punk with a big smile), and the toy percussion that dominated the title tune reveals these folks have some imaginative notions of their own. And while one might have justifiable fears that a band led by a ukulele player would suffer from a severe case of the cutes, Kane never uses her uke as a gimmick, and guitarists Angela Silletto and K.C. Bowman give the band a warm, full-bodied sound, Khoi Huynh and Charlie Crabtree are a strong and versatile rhythm section, and the wealth of guest musicians assembled by producer Allen Clapp give Poppy Seeds a grand scale sound that's open, uncluttered, and engaging. You may hear bands that are tougher, more swaggering, and more calculated than the Corner Laughers, but you're not likely to hear a more purely enjoyable pop album than Poppy Seeds this year, or in the next several years to come -- it's a delight and a minor miracle.

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