Caleb Sherman and Peter Block, the New York City-based duo behind Porter Block, love to create buoyant pop tunes filled with harmonies and hooks. If that makes you think about another New York area pop band the Fountains of Wayne, then you have a good starting point on Porter Block's sound. The disc's jaunty opening track "Wonder About Me," which takes aim at an ex-girlfriend with some gentle sniping ("Are you out there/Has your hair turned grey"), wouldn't sound out of place on a Fountains' album. Porter Block, however, isn't as devoted in trying to give every lyric a clever or snarky twist like Fountains enjoy doing. Their approach, both lyrically and musically, is a gentler one. In this way, Porter Block, as evidenced on such wistful pop tunes "Dream Another Day" and "Circle," favor another of their influences, Crowded House. On "Safe and Warm," Sherman and Block achieve a laid-back Jack Johnson vibe as they sing about "a man stuck in the traffic" trying to get home to his love. There is a warmth to their music that conveys a sense of sincere emotions. The disc's arrangements, accenting acoustic guitars, and airy harmonies, result in a pleasant, easy-on-the-ears sound. The album's middle section, however, does suffer slightly from the stringing together of several rather genial songs. The band rights itself with a trio of strong numbers -- "South Beach Drive," "Blackberry Girl," and the title track -- that close out the album proper. Each of these tunes contains some sharp lyrics and more distinctive arrangements. The disc concludes with the "single versions" of two tunes: "Something Better" and "Wonder About Me." Both takes offer a somewhat rockier treatments and "Something Better"'s energetic edge might have been a better choice than the "album version" of the song. Nicely populated with melodic folk-pop along with some bright lyricism, Suburban Sprawl gets Porter Block off to a promising start.
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AllMusic Review by Michael Berick