Named after the hoop houses at a day job (not basketball), Bloomington, Indiana's Hoops make their full-length debut with Routines. It follows a handful of cassettes that landed them a record deal with Fat Possum, and a D.I.Y. EP that generated a certain amount of buzz and anticipation in the indie music press. Given their reverb-heavy, lo-fi complexion, it was intriguing -- perhaps alarming to some -- to learn that the band logged their first sessions in a professional studio for the album. It turns out that fans of their murky melodicism needn't have worried: the group ended up doing a second pass on the original recordings, altering some and re-recording others in a family member's basement to get the desired results. Also making use of vintage synths and '80s guitar amps to hone that sound, the album opens with the aptly titled "Sun's Out." One of several songs that clock in at less than three minutes, it blends harmonic guitars and synths that shimmer, a relaxed groove, and wistful chord progressions for an intro that floats by with a Mona Lisa smile. Later, the recipe sits perfectly on the song "On Top," an exercise in sympathy and morale-boosting with lyrics like "Keep your head up, you're doing fine/I know it's hard, but you'll be all right." "Underwater Theme" is a more languid, reflective entry, and the guitar-based instrumental "Benjals" comes off a bit like a proggy dream pop version of the Style Council, with extended chords, noodling, and bouncy syncopation. Throughout, though, the sound is so consistent, alluring, and distinctive that it's hard to believe that they have all three members contributing songs here. Whatever their process, Hoops seem to have figured it out before this official first impression, an accomplishment even without the solid tunes and disarming spirit.
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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson