Hooton Tennis Club

Highest Point in Cliff Town

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Hooton Tennis Club sound like a bunch of guys who are well-read and well-versed in music history and who like nothing better than picking up their instruments and having a goofy lark. Their debut album, Highest Point in Cliff Town, is filled with the kind of giddily woozy guitar pop that is sure to make slackers both past and present very happy. Songs that sound like the hookiest singles Pavement never released ("Up in the Air") back up to those that sound like solid Pavement album tracks ("I'm Not Going Rose's Again"), with the guitars loping along and crashing together behind Ryan Murphy's slightly dazed everydude vocals. Did you get that they sound like a junior varsity version of Pavement? Producer Bill Ryder-Jones doesn't add anything fancy to the mix; the sound is live and loose with guitars, drums, and bass shambling along in glorious mid-fi style. Occasionally the bandmembers break out of their slacker shells and deliver something a little more forcefully jangly ("Kathleen Sat on the Arm of Her Favourite Chair"), dreamier (the beguiling ballad "Jasper"), or flat-out poppy ("Always Coming Back 2 You"), but mostly they are content to be breezy and fun and oddly graceful. It's impossible to fault them for that, since most bands spend all their time trying to be noticed or make a statement or have a hit, and just end up sounding desperate. HTC don't really do any of that as they laze from likable tune to likable tune, and they are all the better for it. Highest Point is the kind of album that's easy to love as background music, as a soundtrack for a lazy summer day, or anytime good, catchy tunes with no rough edges are required.

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