Maybe the best moment on Dog Problems, the second LP from Peoria, Arizona’s the Format, comes near the end of the title track, when singer Nate Ruess sings, “Was it worth it/ When you slept with him/ Did you get it all/ Out of your system?” holding out the word “all” over a spastic Sgt. Peppers-style orchestral freak-out. Or the lyric (in the same song): “I’ve reached the part/ Where all I want/ Is to sleep around/ In hopes that I/ Will catch back up.” Or it could be the beginning of “I’m Actual,” when, over the line “So can we take the next hour/ And talk about me?” the band builds an arrangement piece by piece, from background harmonies to Dixieland horns to soaring violins and bells and xylophones and rolling pianos and huge cymbal crashes, until it becomes a glorious amalgam of all its intricate parts.
There are poppier, more radio-ready tracks, such as “Pick Me Up” and the awesomely addictive “Oceans,” but the slower songs are what set this album apart from its contemporaries. What makes this such a strong album are the influences the band members are able to reconcile: the grandiose and creative arrangements of the Beatles and a sunny Beach Boys vibe with a more modern, direct, arena-rock aspect. Rather than falling into mimicry or self-indulgence, the Format displays an understanding of what keeps people listening: instantly repeatable lyrics, creativity, and a band that sounds like it’s having as much fun as you are.