Apartment Life

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This winsome, pleasant, accomplished, convivial pop LP attracted some fine word of mouth, after these New Yorkers-by-way-of-Connecticut with a Fountains of Wayne connection (guitarist Adam Schlesinger is in both bands) finished a solid tour, one where they outdrew U.K. headliners/alternative one-hit wonders Space Monkeys. And yet it's a wonder that Ivy isn't massive. Not only are they led by a talented female singer, Dominique Durand, in an era where such a demeanor is finally favored, but she's sweet and pretty as well, with a decided French accent. Such friendliness and refined music helps explain the all-star cast willing to help Ivy out on this exquisite work, such as Lloyd Cole, James Iha, Luna's Dean Wareham, Stanley Demeski, and most of all, superb trumpet player Chris Botti. And boy does Apartment Life improve over their promising but not quite there debut, Realistic! Some songs cut deeper than others (some are merely jaunty and boppy in an slurpy ice cream cone way), but three or four are the sort of pleasantly produced, precisely structured pop dreams that make fans sing along. The opening "The Best Thing" is a true single with a chorus that is to swoon and croon for; the '60s-ish, horn-laden skip of "This Is the Day" is lightweight, la-la-la pop personified; and better, when they let the guitars get mean for a second, on the post-MBV attack of "You Don't Know Anything," Ivy are a knockout. The rest is more lighthearted yet still crafted, cleanly produced, stylized old-pop with warmth, such as the cooing "I've Got a Feeling" (no, not the Beatles song), "Quick, Painless and Easy," and the gently haunting "Back in Our Town." As seen in their Apartment Life, Ivy are a summer breeze and a cool lemonade, here for all to taste.

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