I'm Friends With All Stars

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Minneapolis' Love-Cars make emo music for grown-ups. Now, although that may sound awfully derisive at first blush, consider what makes the turgid genre of "emo" so appealing to the more melodramatic folks among us in the first place: First, whiny, go-nowhere vocals (why this is appealing to anyone, it's hard to know). Second, hollow attempts at catharsis through negligible "dynamism" (i.e., loud/soft/loud shifts in volume and not much else). Third, absurdly self-involved, and often self-pitying, lyrical content. Fourth, it's very rarely, if ever, fun. Erase those dubious tenets -- actually, reverse them -- and you've got something pretty close to the music of Love-Cars, and in I'm Friends With All Stars, you've got an album that meets the aforementioned, wretchedly named genre's implicit aspirations handily. Singer James Diers is introspective without the usually attendant navel-gazing, and matches the ebb and flow of the album with a unique delivery that never becomes tiresome or tearfully sentimental. What's more, the boys in Love-Cars know their way around a hook. "Ultimate Goodbye," "Lovesick Sigh," and especially "Call Me Sometime, Best Friends Forever," with its expertly crafted high-school yearbook/lesson plan nostalgia ("Your yearbook is the Grand f*cking Canyon/Your yearbook is the universe expanding"), all beat the pants off of anything in major rotation on AAA radio. Jesus. If there were any justice in the world of popular music, this band would be splayed all over VH1, and in prime time, too, right where Train and Jimmy Eat World normally tread. If you've found yourself cursing under your breath at any of the fey, mewling malnourished who are responsible for some of the most uninspired rock music, underground or otherwise, in recent memory, I'm Friends With All Stars is an eloquent and well-crafted antidote.

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