Darling Buds of May

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The debut album by Orange County alt-rockers Faulter was originally released as a self-distributed demo, but it has all the studio polish and reverent early MTV nods of major-label smashes like the Killers' Hot Fuss and Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American. Faulter come by the new wave trappings honestly, though: their manager and producer, Jon Saint James, was a fixture on L.A.'s synth dance scene of the '80s. Saint James' sonic fingerprints are all over Darling Buds of May, but the album has to stand or fall on the songs, and leader Andy Carpenter acquits himself well on that point. Though he and his bandmates have an unapologetic eye for the charts (even to the point of having most of the album's keyboards and drums played by studio pros), Carpenter doesn't pander too hard to the lowest common denominator in the manner of, say, the Bravery. The songs are uniformly catchy and a bit frivolous, but highlights like the poppy guitar rock kiss-off "I Think We Need to Talk" and the unabashedly commercial "Sixes & Sevens" are good enough to make their shamelessness work.

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