Jukebox the Ghost

Off to the Races

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The follow-up to the Brooklyn trio's 2014 eponymous fourth full-length outing, Off to the Races continues the underrated Jukebox the Ghost's pop-tastic winning streak, delivering a taut, ten-track set of meticulously crafted and radio-ready confections that would eat through the wrapper in lesser hands. Unapologetically sincere and ruthlessly earnest -- even their occasional stabs at cynicism are self-effacing -- it would be easy to relegate the band to the same brightly lit factory showroom responsible for unleashing saccharin millennial hitmakers like American Authors, but like their closest sonic contemporaries Fun., Jukebox the Ghost connect on such a base human level that it's easy to forgive their frequent deep dives into the mainstream. That pop acumen is applied liberally throughout the LP, gleaned from what appears to be a heavy diet of Ben Folds and Queen -- they love the latter act so much that they hold an annual tribute concert every Halloween. Pianist/vocalist Ben Thornewill's Freddie Mercury devotion is put on full display on the lead-off cut "Jumpstarted," one of a handful of singles, alongside "Fred Astaire" and "Everybody's Lonely," that locate the sweet spot between pop purity and rock pageantry. Guitarist Tommy Siegel, the trio's other talented songwriter, has more of a pop-punk streak running through him, but the band's acute craftsmanship rounds off any rough edges, resulting in something that feels closer to They Might Be Giants than it does Jimmy Eat World. Despite their penchant for sonic extravagance, the trio understands the crucial role that brevity plays in 21st century pop music. Clocking in at just under 35 minutes, it's easy to ingest Off to the Races in a single sitting, and its sweetness lingers long after feel-good closer "Colorful"s final note. Just remember to brush your teeth afterwards.

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