The School

Loveless Unbeliever

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On their debut album, Loveless Unbeliever, the School prove that they have fully absorbed the lessons of the classic girl groups and Brill Building songwriters, and deliver an album full of instantly memorable songs that plays like a greatest-hits collection. The group, led by singer and songwriter Liz Hunt, went through a lot of members on the way to finishing the album, but the final product is tightly focused and note perfect (much of the thanks for which should go to producer Ian Catt). All four songs from the 2008 Let It Slip EP and both songs from their 2008 single ("All I Wanna Do"/"Valentine") feature on the album, plus seven new songs. Having all the previously released songs here may appear at first glance to be kind of a cheat, like the band didn’t have enough good songs to fill the necessary space. However, when you consider that the EP and single are relatively hard to track down, and that the group wanted the album to have one great song after another, their presence makes sense. Besides, hearing them all in one place helps drive home just how potent the group’s distillation of Motown, girl group, and indie pop really is. Though they are all near-perfect pop songs, the clear winner among them is "Let It Slip," with its swooping strings, peppy backing vocals, and a heartbreaking vocal from Hunt. Her vocals are sweet as pie but they also have enough depth to provide some emotional punch. She could easily have been a Shangri-La. The guys and girls in the band also show that they have what it takes to make great pop music, never playing two notes where one will do, and showing both a light touch and plenty of energy when required. The one fear that goes with an album made up of songs that are already released and well-loved is that the newer songs may not measure up. No fear of that here. From the bopping “Is He Really Coming Home?” and the '50s-style sweetheart jam “Hoping and Praying,” to the hushed ballad “I’d Do Anything,” there is no shortage of memorable melodies and hooks. Taken together the album lives up to the band’s ambition and provides the listener with an experience roughly akin to riding a roller coaster that’s all thrilling drops, no uphill climbs. There are a fair amount of bands mining the same girl group-influenced gold in 2010, Loveless Unbeliever shows that the School are the truly the best.

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