Cende play punchy, unassuming power pop. Their debut LP, #1 Hit Single, retains much of the spry energy that drove their earlier work but puts the focus on vocalist Cameron Wisch's sugary melodies and candid lyricism.
It's easy to wonder whether you stumbled your way into an emo record when Wisch hollers "I'm the only one that I could let down" on opener "Bed." His double-tracked vocal style sits in a crystal clear upper register that he explores to its outer limits on nearly every track, twisting and stretching his phrases with an impressive athleticism.
As the record's first half plays out, it becomes clear that Cende have an intuitive knack for arrangement and layering that goes well beyond the scope of your typical DIY pop band. This is particularly evident on standout single "What I Want," on which tambourine provides cover for the entry of a gorgeous string section as Wisch steps back and allows a mysterious guest vocalist to offer him a counter-perspective in the song's last verse. It's a moment of songwriting brilliance that will inspire you to dig through the other seven songs on the album in search of a comparable payoff.
While Cende have undoubtedly found their style, its scope is relatively narrow for being so well-crafted. You can hear Wisch trying to dodge a repeat vocal melody on "Void," and not every one of the hooks he throws out on "While I'm Alive" catches like his earlier castings. There is enough ear candy on offer here to satiate any listener, though; everyone is bound to find their own #1 Hit Single somewhere on this satisfying record. (Double Double Whammy)