Joe Pernice waited three years between the first Pernice Brothers album, 1998's Overcome by Happiness, and the second, 2001's The World Won't End, during which he released two side-project albums filled with songs he declared weren't up to his standards for the group. And to take him at his word, in the nearly ten years after 2010's Goodbye, Killer, he wrote and recorded another Pernice Brothers album only to scrap it because he didn't like how it turned out. Clearly, patience and quality control are integral parts of Pernice's creative process, but you can't say they don't work for him. 2019's Spread the Feeling may have been a long time coming, but it's a brilliant reminder that Pernice is one of the best and most interesting pop songwriters of the 21st century, and he has a fine grasp of what makes a great record. In terms of songwriting, Spread the Feeling is prime Joe Pernice, full of cleverly constructed melodies paired with lyrics that are darkly witty poison-pen observations on romantic relationships and other human interactions. Randy Newman once described his style as a nice sound with a nasty intent, and at his best, Pernice hits that target just as reliably as the Minstrel of Pixar. And working with a cast of musicians comprised of Pernice Brothers alumni (Peyton Pinkerton, James Walbourne, Patrick Berkery, Bob Pernice, Ric Menck) and new contributors (Joshua Karp, Neko Case, and Pete Yorn), this is some of the most immediate and forceful music this band has ever released, not heavy-handed but full of energy and not shy about making an impact. The guitars chime, the drums snap, and Pernice's vocals, done up in a variety of tones of expressive suede, have been dipped in just enough honey that you aren't aware of how deep they cut until it's too late. Spread the Feeling falls short of being a career best, but it stands proudly side by side with anything they cut after 2003's Yours, Mine and Ours, and if you like your pop smart, snarky, and easy to hum along with, you can hardly do much better than this.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming