Wide Awake

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If there was ever a band born to bear the generalized standard of "pop/rock," it would be Charlottesville, Virginia's Parachute. Since making their major-label debut in 2009, the amiable group of friends has produced three albums' worth of undeniably commercial pop/rock confections set defiantly on cruise control down the middle of the road. Although they've slimmed down from a quintet to the core trio of singer/guitarist Will Anderson, keyboardist Kit French, and drummer Johnny Stubblefield, Parachute's fourth LP, Wide Awake, does little to rock the boat. Longtime producer John Fields is back at the helm to help reprise the band's mix of uplifting radio-ready rock, blue-eyed soul, and romantic ballads that has served them so well on prior releases. While pleasing critics has never been Parachute's M.O., they certainly know their way around big melodic hooks, and opener "Without You" sets the tone on an album that seems to skew more toward their pop and soul tendencies. There's the slick '80s-style ballad "Jennie," the lusty R&B of "Crave," and even a pair of piano-led gospel jams in "What Side of Love" and "New Orleans." This might come off as diversity in another act, but here it feels more like covering the bases in search of a hit. In spite of some solid playing and a big production budget, Parachute's music continues to feel overly familiar in a way that is pleasant but generally innocuous. Wide Awake is certainly not a bad album, but in lieu of any real risk-taking it's hard to feel its sincerity.

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