The Origin

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For a debut, The Origin is certainly solid. Many of the songs are vigorous and rosy, and the band knew its way around a groove, particularly sprightly piano-led ones -- "Growing Old," "Everyone Needs Love" -- that show a passing familiarity with Elton John but are much jauntier. Michael Andrews sings with animated, malleable vocals that are enchanting, once you warm to them, and the band definitely excels on the sunnier tracks where his idiosyncratic voice has the chance to stretch out and find crevices in the music to explore. The album owes a debt to Crowded House in terms of some of its melodic content and the buoyant acoustic textures -- there is a distinct absence of electric guitar, with Andrews' lively picking standing in, for the most part -- on songs like the jazzy "Ride" and "Who Would've Known," with its Eurythmics-like orchestration. At other times, the Origin picks up where the Police left off ("Set Sails Free") with precise, architectural rhythms, worldbeat inflections, synth washes, and airy choruses. The production is somewhat too antiseptic, yet the emotion of the performances gradually swells to the surface. As wide-eyed as it is, though, the album is very much an inconsistent effort. It especially goes flat in the middle on the ponderous, overlong ballads "Lonely Place Alone" and "Never Coming Down," which aim for dreamy but only manage tepid. Promising in the way of chops, the Origin nevertheless still had some growing to do before their next album.

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