The Smiling Strangers, All the Way
The Smiling Strangers' press kit promises "the joy of the three-minute pop song," and although most of these songs run more than three minutes, the influence of 1960s pop speaks through them loud and clear. With crisp and simple arrangements, strongly melodic songwriting, and male and female vocals that are more enthusiastic than precise, the disc does feel like something out of a more innocent - or at least less jaded - era. I especially like Lucy Winkett's full-throated belt, the kind of sound we haven't heard much in pop music since the time of Cass Elliot. Most of the best songs are on the first half of the disc; "The One I Hold Tonight," "Goodbye Grey," and "Beautiful You" are among those that stood out for me. There's a bit of heavier drama, with echoes of Crowded House in songs like "What a Good Boy," but for the most part it's a fairly light set, which is nice in this time when most musicians tend to take themselves too seriously.