In the Backyard

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With 11 tracks clocking in at under 30 minutes, Brooklyn duo Brooms' debut, the quirky In the Backyard, comes at the listener quickly and mostly straddles the line between novelty songs and merely whimsical ones. Exceptions are "Kitty on the Kitchen Floor Next to the Ironing Board," which lands squarely in the novelty category, and "Barracuda Belly," a dulcet serenade about relationship self-doubt, which is -- relatively speaking -- sincere. The subject matter, also revealed in titles such as "Condos" ("Your place looks just like mine/That's fine"), "Balding," and "Elbows," is the most conspicuous thing about the record. Also notable is the use of expanded instrumentation including trombone, clarinet, cat and bird noises, and stomping. With atypical sounds, and songs expressing frustration and vulnerability, the composite has elements of Andrew Bird and Frank Zappa, if not their polish. Another salient feature is singer Matt Cascella's distinctive, raspy tenor (think Paolo Nutini crossed with John Fiedler). The lyrical content and instrumentation cause some of the vocal performances to have more of a Jimmy Durante vibe than the Mick Hucknall one that Cascella sounds at least to some degree capable of, but that would be an entirely different record indeed. More often than not, Brooms land in a likable middle ground in tone, like a less percussive They Might Be Giants, with charm that pulls off the more experimental content. Note: the album is not kazoo-free.

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