Matt and Jason Docter of late-'90s alt-rock players Suede Chain resurface with L.A.-based outfit the Lift. Road to Hana, their self-released debut, channels a rarefied form of Radiohead into the predictable pacing and accessibility of modern rock. This is nothing new for the early 21st century. However, the band is pretty handy in the songwriting department, and also knows its way around a mixing board. Hana openers "Bury the Lead" and "Carousel" establish the album template. But they're also primed with ringing hooks and interesting arrangement sidetracks. "Red Shirt" slows the pace with glimmers of synthesizer and a big, big U2 influence, while "Spaceman"'s lyrical clichés are rescued by soothing acoustic guitar and another wash of electronic accompaniment. The Lift really did do a spectacular job with Road to Hana's production. The album's pristine sound makes it more attractive for the mainstream, but also cleverly emphasizes the Lift's catchy vocal hooks and striking dynamics over the influences that never stop riding shotgun. Highlights include "Firecracker," which quivers with pop energy and guitar screech à la Ash, as well as a late-album suite ("Ride," "15 Again," "Satellite") that stretches out the Lift's sound with echoing atmospherics separating moments of sticky pop melody or electric guitar sting. Road to Hana's stylistic signposts might be pretty easy to read, but the Lift have nevertheless created a smooth, solid debut that drifts, rocks, and shimmers in all the right places.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus