Bishop Allen Charm School

As surely as the days grow warmer, the need for a soundtrack to summer becomes more pressing. And in the bright sound of Bishop Allen comes redemption, bounding up your front steps just as you begin to wear out the new Essex Green. Time and again throughout this record, these other Brooklynites show sensible restraint, dressing down their songs to the bare essentials of guitar, bass, drums and occasional handclaps. The sweet boy-girl vocals and nerdy ruminations ought to be a recipe for treacle, but instead it comes off somehow as original. But it’s the fucking great melodies that save Bishop Allen from terminal cuteness. They resist the temptation to clutter up their songs (as would most bands with their gift for hooks) and consistently leave plenty of breathing room. As a result, the call-and-response is pleasingly sloppy, and harmonies a little off-key. Everything is kept sparse and neat, and their nods to the Byrds and the Beatles are characteristically understated — even the off-kilter "hey-la” refrain during "Things Are What You Make Of Them.” The lyrics are sometimes bitter, often funny and generally just too earnest to be self-consciously clever. It’s not all perpetually cheerful either, but in the interests of showing you a good time they don’t dwell on their spiritual struggles. They might have reason to be apprehensive about the adjectives likely to come their way, but clearly a co-ed fourpiece in schoolboy ties and sundresses is prepared to fend off the "c” word. If an overcast sky leaves you unimpressed and uninspired, go put this on. (The Champagne School)