Lawrence Arabia Chant Master

It's hard to know just how influential the Finn brothers have been Down Under, as it could be the temptation to make a lazy geographical comparison. Yet there's a great deal of sunny pop music being made by the Antipodeans, and Lawrence Arabia can be added to that list. Or more accurately, James Milne, as he's the mastermind behind Chant Master, Lawrence Arabia's second album, but first to come out in North America. It's a pleasant enough listen, with its upbeat songs and layer upon layer of vocal harmonies, but there isn't anything to make it stand out from other similarly minded records, at least upon the first listen. Eventually it does give up some of its secrets; Milne's voice is deceptively sweet, hiding some caustic lyrics and the tunes get increasingly better, with lavish arrangements and even the occasional hint of fashionable African music. Chant Master doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it makes sure it's running as smooth as ever, and sometimes that's enough. (Bella Union)