Missing Joe

Highway Songs

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Boston-based Missing Joe's Highway Songs is a trek of wide-eyed pop whimsy. As its title suggests, the disc owes a great deal to jangly Americana -- not alt-country, per se, but roots rock -- and most of the band's songs deal with expectations and hopes: a bright future not yet realized. And the band's lyrical fascinations with the open road, the radio, and California all pop up repeatedly. For some, this degree of sincerity will mean Highway Songs is a refreshing, unpretentious slice of acousticy, ballad-heavy college rock. But for the slightly less misty-eyed, however, it feels very much like the work of a very young band who may not yet have material strong enough to warrant an entire album. After all, it seems ironic that a band would earnestly sing not one but several odes to the radio in 2002, a time when it's arguably at its least innovative and entertaining point. Highway Songs' strength, however, is in these same shiny, anthemic, earnest numbers, so it's one of the rare moments where a band's debut leans most on the points that are at once both their biggest assets and most glaring weaknesses.

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