The Musgraves Sweeten The Pop

Sort of a British response to fun.

The Musgraves are a four-piece UK indie pop outfit that similarly mixes ages past with aplomb. Their debut album, You That Way I This Way, is a preppy, poppy piece of brit-pop confectionery that borrows from thirty years of upbeat English pop, folk, and psychedelia while taking a detour through the American east coast along the way.

The resulting sonic brew is undeniably infectious, despite at times presenting a nearly comical range of claps, piano hits, sha-la-las, string flourishes, and glockenspiel tinklings in an unadvisedly small space.  However, they carry it off, in large part by playing it absolutely straight, with lead singer Matthew Bennett unabashedly belting out great vocals for every sugar-coated track.

Bennett is the real star here, a with clear appeal and a showman's spirit that shines through every track.  His voice has surprising range, and he has a number of vocal tricks up his sleeve that you don't often hear from modern frontmen.  Bennett is open about being influenced by classics from the 50s and 60s and that's clear from his delivery – even tricky rhythms on songs like “Last Of Me” are crisp and clear.

While most of the album is relentlessly upbeat, at a couple points the Musgraves slow down, such as on the gorgeous “Discover Me.”  Bennett shows that he's got some soul as well, showing off his throaty, mournful style before moving back and forth into his higher range.  It's a shame the song is eventually buried under the production Coldplay-style.   A bit less probably would have been more, in this case.

Despite being in the background, every member of the group is also clearly an accomplished performer, pulling off vocal harmonies and a surprisingly wide range of instruments for such a relatively small band.  They honestly sound like a ensemble that's twice their size much of the time, with the number of simultaneous instruments and vocals going on.  

With The Musgraves, you know exactly what you're getting within the first seconds of a song.  They're unabashedly out to have a hand-clapping good time, and they're packing every stringed instrument that might make it happen.  I have to give them credit, though – the formula works.  

By pairing honestly entertaining vocals that throwback to the Rat Pack with songs containing more hooks than a tackle box, The Musgraves have crafted a charmingly upbeat album of the sort that ends up playing on repeat for three hours straight.