The latest LP from Newmarket pop-rockers the Elwins is both exploratory and poppy at the same time. Sounding equal parts like Tokyo Police Club and Bombay Bicycle Club, the band unashamedly embrace modern pop sounds on Beauty Community.
2015's Play for Keeps was a showcase of tight guitars and pop hooks, like if the Strokes listened only to Vampire Weekend's debut while recording Is This It. Now, they wear their pop ambitions even more proudly on their sleeves. Songs here share names with Usher hits, and they make heavy use of programmed beats, woozy synths and danceable bass lines.
It's a sound that works for the most part, even if some of the moments on the record sound super cheesy on paper. The lines "Come on, come on / Everyone is worth it" from the chorus of "C'mon C'mon" might sound here like Coldplay at their corniest, but on record, the band are just earnest enough to pull it off.
This is a record that delivers instant gratification, with plenty of catchy moments that show they've got the pop part of pop-rock down pat. "Hey! Ya, You" benefits from a snappy chorus that's got earworm written all over it, while "Hocus Pocus" rides an upbeat bass line as singer/guitarist Matt Sweeney wonders "How can I be free / If you're running my mind?"
Beauty Community finds the Elwins at their poppiest, simultaneously refining their strengths and branching out further. Some moments on the record pass by innocuously and without much impact, but the group show considerable command over their new sound here to compensate. (Hidden Pony)