As indicated by the sounds of his aliases Sean Na Na and Har Mar Superstar, Sean Tillman has a fixation with sonics. That fixation generally carries over to his songwriting, particularly on the third full-length from Sean Na Na the band, which is based in Los Angeles and also also features Denver Dalley (of Desparecidos and Statistics) and Justin Chearno (of Panthers and Turing Machine). Family Trees or CoPe We Must — the end of that title is apparently code for “coke-peppered weed mustache”; clever — contains charming choruses and bouncy guitar riffs, aligning Sean Na Na with numerous other SoCal bands. “Fold, Hit, or Stand” takes an especially Sublime-ish turn (think “Date Rape,” but also think the sporadic nature of 40 Oz. to Freedom) with a narrative about being “pregnant with a girl I didn’t love.” After an upbeat first verse, the track bridges into the more foreboding lament: “Please don’t hurt the child/ but do with me what you must.”
Most of the lyrics, however, set off alarms: “Can’t Get a Spark” (“I can’t wait too long/ and I know that to covet is wrong”) or “Help Me Up the Hill” (“You beat my rainbow to death/ Took away its last breath”) or “Black Bag” (“I got two forties in a black bag/ we’re going drinking by the train tracks”). If all it took was guitars and a cheerful vocalist, this album would be satisfying. But the song concepts are too shallow.