Gold-Bears Dalliance

Gold-Bears' debut was a catchy, though lightweight, slab of C86 worship, but their sophomore effort tightens and toughens up their sound. The transition is apparent from opener "Yeah Tonight," as the band blast off into hyperdrive, pausing briefly for the dreamy "I Hope You're Right" before once again picking up the pace with "Memo." Screeching feedback pierces through even the shortest breaks, but it's held at bay by chief songwriter Jeremy Underwood's infectious hooks. The band finally eases up on the throttle for side two, which houses the album's most sublime moments of pop brilliance.

Gold-Bears wear their influences on their sleeves, and it's clear that the band sit at the nexus of '80s twee and noise pop — Black Tambourine's Pam Berry even provides backing vocals on the album. That's the rub: Listeners walk away with little sense of who Underwood and his band-mates are; that a city like Atlanta, and not some far-flung London neighbourhood, birthed this quintet only deepens the beguiling mystery. Still, a perceived lack of personality can't change the fact that Dalliance is one of the catchiest and most energetic guitar records of the year. (Slumberland)