Life In the Treehouse

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Straddling the fence between blandness and almost Oriental elegant simplicity, Life in the Treehouse is an album easy to tune out of, but worth tuning in for. At a casual glance, the record offers nothing but quiet, pleasant, but ultimately unremarkable songs that mix folk-rock and soft rock to produce a healthy but tame brew suggesting, perhaps, a bunch of Sheryl Crow outtakes recorded on a lazy sunny day with no chart success in mind. And indeed, there's little groove and no big hooks on Life in the Treehouse -- certainly nothing you'd be able to hum years down the line after hearing the chorus once. But then again, this was never the aim of Marlango, because the low-key, relaxed atmosphere is the record's actual selling point, and the vibe is created through subtle but engaging means -- plenty of tunes sport a brass section, there's a waltz, and a dash of old feel-good dance rhythms, as well as some very nice background drum loops and dynamic rock moments that may even recall Death Cab for Cutie, though briefly. On the whole, Marlango prefer living in the past to modernizing, despite the fact that songs with electronica touches are by far the best here, simply for the extra dimension they get -- but those old-fashioned tunes are fun in their own, mildly introspective way. A couple of those prove to be filler even on closer inspection, but most sport an enjoyable, mature vibe, like Suzanne Vega for an indie generation -- and though Marlango have yet to fill those shoes completely, that's a compliment.

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