Free Time

Free Time

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The N.Y.C.-via-Australia band Free Time have a pretty simple, but very effective, approach to their sound. Get a couple of jangling, slightly scuffed-up guitars to play nicely intertwined parts, fill in behind with a melodic bass and some gently swinging drums, add the occasional keyboard, and there you have it. It being some really nice and innocent-sounding indie pop in the C86 tradition, but with a nice serving of '90s slacker pop added to the mix. Their debut album, Free Time, is full of unassuming, totally catchy songs that have plenty of charm thanks to the sound, but also credit has to be given to the songs and vocals of Dion Nania. He certainly knows his way around a catchy melodic hook, and his nasally vocals are perfect for delivering the simple and honest lyrics. His voice is similar in tone to that of Tim Vass of the Razorcuts, though occasionally, as on the painfully melancholy "It Doesn't Stop," he comes close to channeling the deadpan croon of Felt's Lawrence. Razorcuts plus Felt, with a little Pavement added, is basically the formula you could use to describe Free Time's approach, though it's not entirely fair to reduce them to a simple equation. There's enough of Nania's personality that comes through in the vocals and words, enough imagination in the guitar work, and enough really good songs to keep the album from being a rehash. At least half the songs would have fit right in on any of those bands' records, and some, like the bouncy "It's All Right" and the brooding minor-key ballad "I Lost Again," would have been highlights. Other times, the group tweaks its basic formula and comes up with some exciting moments, like on the noisily energetic "Just One" and the guitar solo-filled "Nothin But Nice," which closes the album in a flurry of overheated tube amps. Free Time is a really good example of how to do a debut album right: show basic mastery of imitating your influences without blatantly ripping them off, then show some signs of how you are going to progress from there once you graduate to having your own sound. Which does actually happen every now and then. Free Time shows that the band has a pretty good chance of making it happen, and soon.

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