The Jeanines' brand of indie pop is simplicity itself. The duo of vocalist/guitarist Alicia Jeanine and bassist/drummer Jed Smith don't do anything tricky; they just make records that capture the spirit of C-86 perfectly, with no fuss, and deliver great songs with heart and a sharp eye for detail. Their debut self-titled album was a little tentative at times, sounding like they were still on the road to figuring out exactly what they wanted to sound like. With Don't Wait for a Sign, everything comes into crisp focus. The songs are tighter, the production is punchier, and most importantly, Jeanine sounds more assured as a vocalist. She'll never be confused with Adele, but her warbly voice conveys just as much heartbreak, joy, and uncertainty as anyone working twice as hard. The way she underplays the emotions fits just so with the low-key drumming, melodically nimble bass, and jangling guitars. Even more than the debut, this record is filled with songs that don't only recall the highlights of previous indie pop bands, they make a bid to be considered in the same breath. The opening "That's Okay" is a short, snappy bit of popcraft that matches warm assurance with vocal harmonies; "Any Day Now" has some magical chord progressions, a lilting chorus, and again, some top-notch vocal harmonies, while "People Say" is fine midtempo balladry that has the sadness of prime Aislers Set baked in and some neo-psych guitar interplay on top. Those are only the first three songs, and the release is already lodged deeply in the memory bank; the rest of the album doesn't miss a beat. Jeanine and Smith build on the framework they established in interesting ways on "Got Nowhere to Go," which feels like a Beau Brummels single, burrow deep into melancholy on the jingle-jangle weeper "Never Thought," and add acoustic guitars to "Turn on the TV." The changes are small but they work well to expand the sound in important ways. Jeanines still feel very pocket-sized and almost painfully relatable here; the difference is similar to turning up the contrast on a screen or tuning in a slightly fuzzy radio station: everything pops a little more and cuts a little deeper. At times on their first album they seemed a little like a novelty band with their note-perfect retro approach, but here they sound like a serious group, the kind that breaks hearts and changes lives.
Don't Wait for a Sign Review
by Tim Sendra