Hop on Pop

As Drawn by Ethan, Age 2

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Chicago's Hop on Pop happily attacks the indie pop and rock hat rack for As Drawn by Ethan, Age 2. Happily because they realize sounding a bit like Pavement or Belle & Sebastian never hurt anyone. But happily, too, because lead guy Todd Leiter-Weintraub and his tidy crew sound genuinely joyous on this, their Spade Kitty debut. "If It's Important to You" begins with laconic Malkmus detachment, but it soon unfolds into a pop origami monster of bright orange high notes and chunky grey distortion. Just as unpretentiously, "Cary's Here" twists the chiming guitars and giddy descending piano familiar to anyone who ever bought a natty thrift store sweater into a ditty fit for a king -- or, in this case, a happy little baby. "And your eyes must be open/'Cause you start to cry...It's alright now/Daddy's here." Aw. Leiter-Weintraub shows a flair for this sort of unaffected lyrical picture painting throughout Ethan -- even if he's only using the primary colors, the results are clear-eyed and expressive. Hop on Pop's instrumentation takes some delightful detours, too. A harpsichord effect livens up "Don't Speak," while the acoustic "False Start" is led along by the loopy lope of a dobro. "Suckers" opts for a boisterous Big Star feel, while the late-album entry "For My Friends" surges forth for a sucker-worthy boisterous Big Star feel. As Drawn by Ethan, Age 2 ends with the electrified rocker "Block Block," its feedback finale putting a rousing exclamation point on a record content to earnestly be of a piece, instead of out ahead. And with summer coming on, there's nothing wrong with that.

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