Listening to Rochester, New York, orchestral outfit The Saplings debut eponymous EP The Saplings I was scratching my head trying to think who they reminded me of. I finally got to it that they reminded me, with their glorious four-part harmonies and bouncy compositions that one can’t help but get stuck in, and the tongue-in-cheek lyrical stylings of singers Abe Nouri and Greg Roberts. I was reminded of ‘90s piano rock trio Ben Folds Five.
Take for instance the perfectly composed musical composition “Milo” which is contrasted by the clever silliness in the thematics of its lyrics. The six-plus-minute track is gorgeously rendered musically with a mellow synth at its core and spattered with four-part vocal harmonies a la the Beach Boys and funky and soulful horns resounding like it’s a track off of Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book.
The joke part here is that Milo is a girl kitten. It seems almost to serve as a point that one can make great music but keep the lyrics light and fun, much like Pavement classically proved throughout their illustrious career. I am reminded of Malkmus and Co. on the jaunty “Time Shortage” which this time has a bit more of a pop-rock feel to it but still remains lighthearted but in a way that just makes you want to overdose on how catchy and fun the song is.
The whimsy is sometimes overwhelming however with “Anything” coming off sounding like a track sung wantonly by the Oompa Loompah’s in the reboot of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and over time just becomes a little too silly for its own good.
The Saplings quickly recover, however, offering up the most delicious track on the album, the pop-radio friendly percussive explosion of “All the Way” which recalls the delightful quirkiness of The Long Winters. They return to the zany side of things closing out the record with the children’s television sounding song “R.A.D.”
Despite its being a bit hokey at times one cannot overlook or say enough of how great the musicianship and the overall song structure of the The Saplings EP is. And though the curmudgeon in me peeks its head back into its shell during the sillier moments here it does still agree that a mellowing out of the comedy is the only real remedy The Saplings need to stay on their unobstructed collision course with a wider audience.
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