Okay, first off - dude, it's spring break in these parts, which means that both of my kids are home all day (usually the three-year-old goes to pre-school in the mornings). And honestly, this couldn't come at a worse time, since my morning perusal through the Rhapsody new release line-up turned up a bunch of rap, metal, and punk, which just aren't ideal genres for the taming of small children. So I'm simply not going to be able to do them all this week, and that's pretty much that. Sorry, but the exact moment my son starts quoting Lil Wayne to his teachers will ALSO be the exact moment I will have to withdraw him from school and move across the country. And we just can't afford that shit right now.
So. Luckily, OneRepublic is just the kind of warm 'n' fuzzy pop that is completely kid-appropriate, so I decided to kick things off with their newest. First of all, the band. Although I'd certainly heard them before, and of course a bunch of their singles, including their biggest to date, 2006's "Apologize", I have to admit that I didn't know much about them otherwise. Wikipedia gave me the basics - lead singer Ryan Tedder and lead guitarist Zach Filkins met their senior year at Colorado Springs Christian High School in (you guessed it!) Colorado Springs, and Tedder has written or co-written a ton of hit songs for other artists (Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love", Beyoncé's "Halo", the list goes on and on) (Filkins's background is only slightly less impressive, as it includes underwear modeling and flamenco guitar). And other than that, I found a couple of interviews with the guys (Filkins on CraveOnline and Tedder on The Hollywood Reporter), and a blurb about Tedder on NPR where he describes his song-writing process thusly: "If you're talking to an architect, he can look at a blank piece of paper, and once the initial design is there, the formula kicks in. Each room should have something unique and different about it — much the same way that in a song, every eight bars or so, a new piece of information should be introduced. You want to be constantly building and taking away because it keeps your ears interested. It keeps your brain actively listening. That's formula — once you have a great idea, make sure you don't screw it up." Which makes a lot of sense, since while this music is extremely catchy and listenable, you can definitely hear the formula behind it.
And let's face it - my last sentence pretty much sums up this album: super-catchy, very pleasant, totally NOW, and formulaic (also, I think it sounds a lot like Coldplay for dum-dums, although the band downplays Coldplay's influence on their Wikipedia page). So let's talk some songs. First track "Counting Stars" gets right to the point with a vocal and strummed guitar intro that soon adds keyboards and a driving beat, a one-two punch of musical elements that puts this track into a club-light, nostalgic vein where this record pretty much lives from then on ("I see this life/Like a swinging vine/Swing my heart across the line/In my face is flashing signs/Seek it out and ye shall find"). Then, randomly-chosen middle-album track "I Lived" has a more delicate and sparkly intro, with more plucked guitar and a little ambient fuzz to keep the mood sentimental ("And I hope that you don't suffer/But take the pain/Hope when the moment comes/You'll say "I-I-I, I did it all""). Finally, near-the-end cut "Preacher" is representative of the slower numbers on the album, layering strings and some drawn-out piano chords under the song's poppy petticoats, although I have to admit that it stood out to me solely on the basis of its noticeably lame choral rhyme ("When I was a kid/My grandfather was a preacher/He'd talk about God/Yeah he was something like a teacher" - yes, this bothered me. first of all, the whole preacher/teacher rhyme is weak sauce. secondly, "something like a teacher" is pretty much the DEFINITION of "preacher", so it's also redundant. not to nitpick or anything...). Anyway.
So really, there's not much to say about this record. It sounds like OneRepublic, although slightly more upbeat than many of their previous singles. It's very easy to listen to, what with its swelling choruses and extra synths and all. It's totally decent, and a picture of Top-40 these days. Or in other words, it's perfect for the three-year-old-and-under crowd, which is exactly what I was looking for. In fact, the only downside is that it doesn't model underwear NEARLY as well as its lead guitarist (not that I tried or anything).