Philadelphia-based “jangle-pop” quartet Literature are scheduled to release their second full-length album, Chorus, on August 19th, following up their 2012 debut, Arab Spring.
This is what you could call throwback music; it intentionally, even meticulously, strives to recreate a particular sonic aesthetic from a bygone era, with the understanding that it is not attempting to “push” any “boundaries” in terms of innovation or novelty. Literature are clearly influenced by a broad selection of UK pop/post-punk artists like the Kinks and the Smiths, to the extent that even the vocal inflections sound distinctly British. If you’re into that particular musical “cuisine”, Literature serves it up in heaping portions. The songs are well-crafted, and there are many lovely moments where the guitars, bass, and drums coalesce into vibrant, melodic bouquets of sound. Two of the singles in particular – “The English Soft Hearts” and “Tie-Dye (Your Life)” – are brimming over with catchy pop hooks that you will probably find yourself humming in the shower, on the bus, and in bed.
Props must be given to sound engineer Gary Olson’s production, which makes use of – according to the Slumberland Records website – “studio techniques dating back to the late 60s”. Yes, technical prowess – both in the production and the music itself – is not something this album lacks. It’s weakness lies in the repetitive, formulaic songs, which fail to really make themselves distinct from each other, and the awareness that it’s just deliberately trying to sound like other stuff that’s been done already. It lacks vision; it stays safely in the yard and never steps across the gated threshold into the deep, dark forest. I tried to listen closely to the lyrics thinking they might contain some redemptive poetic depth, but, even though I recognized the words as English, it just sounded like a bunch of stitched-together phrases that were used because they happen to fit, like they were thrown in as a sort of afterthought or garnish, and not because they have some profound – or even interesting – meaning.
Chorus is an ostensibly upbeat album, and while there is an overarching flavour of exuberance permeating the music, it feels more like a short-lived sugar-high than a consistent, nourishing diet. Indeed, listening to this record too much might give you the aural equivalent of a belly-ache, as it is relentlessly high-fructose.