After the well-received folk-rocky All the Times We Had, Seattle five-piece Ivan & Alyosha lean a little further toward an electric guitar-defined indie pop for their follow-up, the fuzzier It's All Just Pretend. While reverb and light-handed droning tones are apparent on the majority of the album instead of on select tracks, the entire set still overflows with the band's sunshiny melodies and chord progressions that evoke the mid-'60s of McCartney Beatles and sunshine pop. Typical of the album, the energized "Bury Me Deep" ("If I was to die, would you bury me deep?") kicks off with distorted guitar, then layers guitars, keyboards, and backing vocal harmonies over driving drums, topped with Tim Wilson's affable voice and even some feedback. The also catchy "All This Wandering Around" has jangly guitars and a dynamic melody that demands in-car singalongs, and they channel rockabilly on "Let Me Go East." With all the fun to be had, there are standout stiller moments, like the high-reverb "Drifting Away" with twangy slide guitar, and the guy-and-acoustic-guitar ballad "Don't Lose Your Love" with its high romance ("Don't you lose your attitude/Don't ever lose that smile/Don't you lose your tenderness/Oh, but most of all/Don't lose your love"). Thoughtful lyrics peak on the title track's dispensing of advice, including the wise "Never trust that man who's been smiling all his life/His fears will catch up in the end/He's standing tall while the rest of us are blind/Oh, brother, it's all just pretend." Throughout, It's All Just Pretend is infectious, warm, and bright, offering positive but not airheaded guitar tunes for a melodic, feel-good fix -- ideal for poolside if one can be had.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson