Restless People

Restless People

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Restless People indeed, the members of this Brooklyn foursome cycled through several permutations and projects together -- as three-quarters of dance-punk second-stringers Professor Murder; as the neotropical production/remix duo Tanlines -- before emerging with this concise but emphatic statement of purpose, which can be seen as a synthesis of all that came before it. Taking Tanlines' lighthearted, percolating electronics as a jumping-off point, Restless People add an equally upbeat, accessible pop/rock songwriting slant, arriving at a very 2010 middle ground between the poppy, globe-trotting indie dance of Delorean, Cut Copy, and El Guincho, and the danceable, globe-trotting indie pop of Vampire Weekend, Foreign Born, and Yeasayer -- think of them, perhaps, as Williamsburg's answer to the Very Best. At first blush, the album feels even slicker and poppier than any of the above, bursting out of the gate with the Day-glo synths and air horns of "Days of Our Lives," a glossy, euphoric club cut with a relentless stream of simple, continually recycling vocal hooks. "Constant Panic" is even more insistently kinetic -- high-NRG neo-disco with a Caribbean lilt, canned handclaps, chopped vocals, and a couple of well-placed percussion breaks. Even the relative breather "Little Sky," which brings down the pace with a nostalgically poignant lyric ("I was born under a great big sky/Now I look up and see a little sky"), is a gleaming, widescreen synth epic that would've been a sure-fire radio staple were it released 25 years earlier, in the age of Peter Gabriel and "In a Big Country." Even with considerable rhythmic variety -- "Don't Back Down" crossbreeds new wave piano pop with hiccuping ska; "Practical Magic" shapeshifts from half-time reggae to a frenetic soca jump-up -- Restless People has a tendency toward sonic samey-ness: it might all seem like so much faceless, peppy prettiness if not for Eric Emm's enthusiastically earnest vocals. Though not a conventionally great singer, Emm sounds clear-eyed and charismatic, urging on the crowd with a motivational energy pitched somewhere between dancehall toaster and positive hardcore frontman. His intermittent shouts of "Ay, Restless people! Okay!" comes across as both a rallying cry to his bandmates and a sincere, if slightly lackadaisical, life-affirming call to arms for anyone within earshot. That mostly latent punkish energy comes to the forefront on closer "Victimless Crime," the album's only serious misstep (or at least misfit), whose cheerful mess of synth squiggles and incoherent chanting atop a crunched, chugging groove can hardly keep pace with the streamlined pancultural effervescence that preceded it.