The Spinto Band is something like the indie-pop equivalent of a Midwestern state: It catches on to all the trends a few years later than the rest of the country. The quintet’s latest album, Shy Pursuit, does indeed sound like a holdout from another (if fairly recent) era; an era when the toast of the indie press wasn’t Death Grips and the Men but vaguely twee acts Islands and the Dodos. While it’s unreasonable to expect every album to be on the cutting-edge of the culture zeitgeist—many of the best bands seemingly operating in complete ignorance of trends—the weaknesses of the Spinto Band’s latest release are compounded by the mildly tired sound.
While Shy Pursuit was still recorded in the band’s home studio, the album marks another large step away from the lo-fi four-track aesthetic that the band’s earlier releases reveled in. Instead of tape hiss and warm fuzz we’re presented with 30 minutes of crispy produced chamber pop. The band follows the tried and true recipe of dressing up twee vocal melodies with clean cut, upbeat indie rock, with some woodwinds, xylophone, and Casio keys thrown in for good measure, of course. There is also a new prominence on rhythm; many of the tracks feature bouncing bass lines, rapidly strummed guitars, and tight, insistent percussion. Essentially, many of the tracks are bursting with the kind of effusive whimsey that seems perfectly honed to sell Honda Civics.
Cruising through the album, it’s a little too easy to spot shades of various touchstones from not too distant indie-pop history. “Take It” finds vocalist Nick Krill doing his best Kevin Barnes against a bubbly bass line that would sound right at home on 2004’s The Sunlandic Twins. Similarly, the syncopated beats and sing-song vocals of “Museli” recall the rhythms and sensibilities of Vampire Weekend with an uncomfortable accuracy. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the entire record didn’t have such a blandness to it—taken as a whole Shy Pursuit feels like a flat amalgamation of post-millennial indie-pop tropes clean-cut from the quirks and charms of their creators. Why would you want to listen to an Of Montreal stripped of its kaleidoscopic weirdness and bizarre sexual undertones?
This isn’t to completely pan the Spinto Band; the quintet still knows how to craft a hook. If you’re the type not bothered by fey vocals or occasionally fussy arrangements, Shy Pursuit could be a breezy springtime romp. It’s the type of competent, sunshine-y pop record that won’t offend anybody but probably won’t create any die-hard fans either.