All right. Let’s talk about twee pop.
Did I lose you? Come back. Okay, good. I think we all have a threshold of how much twee we can take before throwing in the towel — or just throwing up. Some of the major factors are how childlike the band’s lyrical sensibility can be, how innocent and wide-eyed the will lyrics get, and how many superfluous instruments will be allowed into the mix. The genre’s reigning champs, and probably to be blamed for its recent sprawl, are the Scots in Belle and Sebastian, who of course reject this term and this pigeonholing. Since they seem to be heading toward extroverted glam, it’s high time for the twee crown (tiara?) to be passed along. Enter Buckinghamshire, England’s The Boy Least Likely To.
The Best Party Ever, the debut EP from the duo — Jof and Peter, simply — includes the first three singles and five new tracks. The record has just recently arrived in the U.S., though the group has been drumming up buzz in the U.K., on the blogs, and via touring with singer-songwriter James Blunt. That opening gig may be a telling sign: The Boy Least Likely To, though somewhat more nuanced, have the same fey, love-me delivery as Blunt. Beginning with the first bells-and-banjo notes of opener “Be Gentle With Me” and the line “I just want to sparkle for a moment/ before I fizzle out and die” through the final, pointless fifty-second acoustic strumming and minimalist flute notes on “God Takes Care of the Little Things,” The Best Party Ever is an exhaustingly twee, coy and just-too-goddamn-cute indie-pop ride.
The bells and whistles added into just about all of these tracks allow the duo to get away with distinctly flimsy songwriting. The main problem is that the annoyingly simplistic, repeated lyrics (“Fur Too Soft for Words”) smack of a Raffi after-school sing-along for overly mannered hipster whiners. Some fun with synthesizers on “Monsters” and “Paper Cuts” livens up the formula, and it’s clear that these two work best when they nix the cutesy melodies and tone it down for the more somber “The Battle of the Boy Least Likely To.” That track uses the multiple instruments they love to incorporate, but it’s in a subdued and more intuitive way.
Within these twelve tracks, The Boy Least Likely To manages to double the saccharine of an unequivocally sweet genre. This could make Isobel Campbell blush. These two Brits are trying to sound like childhood, but they forget that kids are really pretty irritating.