Getting into Sinking

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It's uncertain as to what AM/FM was referring when they titled the collection, as the duo certainly did not tank in the least on this sophomore effort. Hopefully it was meant as a preemptive, tongue-in-cheek rebuttal of the clich├ęd but often accurate mountain that pop bands have traditionally had to climb on second outings, because Getting into Sinking stays afloat quite nicely indeed. Coming a mere eight months after their strikingly fine debut, the album had some sizeable shoe prints in which to step, and it does a marvelous, seemingly effortless job of navigating that trick. Brian Sokel and Michael Parsell, in fact, created a work -- with significant assistance from co-producer and collaborator Terry Yerves -- that is at least as good as Mutilate Us, and probably better on the balance. Getting into Sinking is altogether more confident in its experimentation, more cohesive in its execution, and more concerted in its impact on the listener. Sokel's songs are again quirky and full of melodic steam, filled with superb twists of the wrist or surprising and delightful eruptions of harmony, while the production, finding a perfect middle ground between hiss-filled lo-fi and cluttered indie rock, employs at all the appropriate moments idiosyncratic swirls of trombone, keyboards, vibes, or percussion to embellish already-carnival-esque guitar/bass/drums skeletons. Absurd titles ("If We Burned All the Assholes the Earth Would Look Like the Sun") with loopy lyrics again suggest Stephen Malkmus or Robert Pollard, and like those songwriting greats, Sokel completely avoids coming off as pretentious because the music is so expertly insouciant and playful ("Head Gone Vertical"), or sweet and gleefully sincere ("And Your Dreams Come True," which translates the Phil Spector/Brian Wilson Wall of Sound into the 21st century), or acoustically soul-soft and stirring ("The Death They Claim," the splendid "I Was Never Here Two Seconds Ago," a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye"). The occasional wrong or loose note lends the music a warped or wounded veneer and bends listeners' ears even more toward their unvarnished charms, like such purposeful endearments as puppy-dog eyes inviting the depths of listeners' empathy. But if there is any band who has shown it doesn't require a listener's pity, it is AM/FM. Whether the duo can sustain their Pollard-like rate of production with similarly outstanding results is anyone's guess, but Getting into Sinking certainly suggests listeners should lay bets on that potentiality.

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