The EP approach seems to have worked for Voxtrot. The Austin outfit shot from total obscurity to bloggy heights of fame on the strength of three stellar short-players—Raised By Wolves; Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives; and Your Biggest Fan—and snagged a deal with Beggars Banquet. However, some reviews of Voxtrot's long-awaited self-titled album aren't as glowing as those the EPs received, making for a weird twist on the phenomenon known as sophomore slump.
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So which is it? Does the album fulfill or betray the band's early promise? Neither, really. It's a different beast altogether. Spangled guitars and springy rhythms can still be found climbing through Voxtrot's immaculate pop anthems, and front man Ramesh Srivastava's softly emotive singing and artful lyrics are certainly intact. But on so many of the new songs (not a single tune from the EPs was recycled), the energy is subdued and the tension more dissolute. Also, everything's prettier, with smooth pianos creeping into the mix at times.
Maybe we're just not used to hearing 11 songs straight from Voxtrot, unless it's the three EPs back-to-back-to-back on iTunes. Given the appropriate time to grow on us, then, Voxtrot is an admirable leap toward subtler, more grown-up songwriting. It's not so different from the shift in sound on the Shins' latest showing. Voxtrot also share with the Shins a knack for wringing giddy new life from familiar pop/rock trappings. They're not doing anything revolutionary, but they do it so well it often feels that way.
"Cheer me up, cheer me up/I'm a miserable fuck," commands Srivastava on "Kid Gloves," one of the album's highlights. It's almost as satisfying as Your Biggest Fan's knockout "Trouble" and a damn sight more pissed-off. Anyone accusing Voxtrot of getting soft on their first full-length may not have noticed Srivastava's dark side yet. It's proof that there's plenty more life left in the band's sturdy bones, with or without rave reviews.
Voxtrot with Sleeping States at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (714) 647-7704; www.theglasshouse.us . Wed., 7 p.m. $14-$16. All ages.