Trunk Federation

Lay the Hip

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Like their name, Trunk Federation's music is sort of willfully inscrutable. On their third album, the Phoenix band tread across a minefield of alternative rock styles, usually retaining a pop base. That pop sensibility is not explicitly rooted in the 1960s or 1970s, though some of the fairly catchy melodies and harmonies are reminiscent of the Beach Boys. They're more conscientious (somehow "imaginative" doesn't seem as appropriate an adjective) in varying their arrangements than many such groups are, with some appealingly odd and rinky-dink keyboards, occasional dabs of brass and strings from guests, and disquieting, slightly distorted guitar. Although alt-pop/rock might be the main diet, they make less successful detours into jerky, new wave-ish rhythms (as on "Load Up the Jetset") and a combination of oompah waltz with space-age pop ("The First Man into Space"). The songs are a mixed lot and, like the group's name, hard to get a hold on, characterized by (if anything) a frequent sense of tense, personal dislocation. "Hey Suitcase"'s key musical hook, for instance, is wedded to a lyric about a "cool breeze in my direction leaving a trail of insects and snails." Not bad, yet not captivating.

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