Goodnight Monsters

Summer Challenge

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Goodnight Monsters' second album, Summer Challenge, is just as sticky sweet and crème-filled as their first, The Brain That Wouldn't Die. The main difference is that they now sound less like a bedroom pop project and more like a real live band. The guitars are richly layered and chiming, the drums are louder (and mostly provided by humans rather than machines), and the vocals are more confident and up-front. The sound has jumped from a Tinkertoy Modern Lovers to a West Coast pre-Teenage Fanclub. How you feel about this change probably depends on how strongly you feel about being twee at all costs. If you can let go and see that the band has managed to progress and grow without sacrificing a single ounce of what made its debut such a charmer, then Summer Challenge will sound just about perfect. Matti Jasu and Valtteri Virtanen's vocals are feather light and lovely, the arrangements shine brightly as a midday sun, and the songs are hooky and peppy without being throwaways. Many of them are mixtape winners, and in "First One on the Beach" they have a knockout summer jam pitched somewhere between Jan & Dean and NRBQ. Goodnight Monsters won't change your life, but they have a great sound and write songs that will make you smile. That's a solid combination, and Summer Challenge is one of the most pleasant and enjoyable hidden gems of the summer of 2008.

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