Life as a Spectator

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Triangulated somewhere between earnest Britpop in the Coldplay or Keane mold, the Shins' indie pop suss, and Death Cab for Cutie's angst, the second album by Oregon quintet Crosstide is a great leap forward from their well-meaning but derivative debut. The group's songwriting has matured considerably, with stronger melodies and a knack for powerful, surging choruses. Although singer Bret Vogel has a somewhat anonymous voice, he also lacks the irritating affectations of many young indie singers with an emo background. More importantly, the band understands the importance of dynamics both within songs and over the course of an album as a whole, which keeps Life as a Spectator sounding varied and appealing throughout. The only thing the album lacks is one truly outstanding breakthrough song.

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