By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
They're pegged as glam-rock at times — perhaps because of the prominent use of organ or the way the melody of "All Die Young" seems to echo "All the Young Dudes" — but, sonically, the Smith Westerns are more consistently reminiscent of ELO, which is especially interesting since the Chicago quartet's members were still in prep school when they recorded their spunky, lo-fi self-titled 2009 debut LP.
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They availed themselves of a studio for January's follow-up Dye It Blonde, and made full use of the space, layering the harmonies and guitars, especially in the big swelling choruses of their bounding rock tunes. The album balances widescreen keyboard-enhanced textures with perky uptempo tunes that blend garage-pop and jangly Beatles-esque pop. The result is an album teeming with energy, full-bodied warmth and irrepressible youthful enthusiasm. Their facility with hooks doesn't hurt, nor does the way singer Cullen Omori's breathy tenor croon drifts over the music with effortless nonchalance, inviting like the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Perhaps the best thing about Dye It Blonde is its blend of lush dreamy tunes ("Smile," "Only One") with pulsing power-pop rave-ups ("End of the Night," "Dance Away") and tracks that split the difference ("Weekend," "Imagine Pt. 3"). The sure-footedness of their first two efforts offers plenty of promise for the future.
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