Review Summary: Nashville based Indie Pop trio Leagues return with their first full length effort and while it's not pushing any boundaries and has it's flaws, it's still a very pleasing experience.
After they gave us a taste of what’s to come with their short but sweet selftiteld EP, Indie-Pop upstarts Leagues released their first full length effort in 2013. And it’s not suprising that they pick up right where they left off and bring us mostly catchy, sugar coated indie pop songs about love, desire and affection. And while most of the songs are not only well crafted and infectious, but also have high replay value, Leagues biggest downfall is the one problem most indie pop bands have, a lack of distinguishable personality as well as the tendency to cling to the same format over and over again.
That’s not to say the Album is bad by any means, in fact it starts out with one of the best Indie songs I have heard in some time. Opener Spotlight has the Band firing on all cylinders and shows what Leagues is capable off. From the immediately appealing sound of the intro, over the upbeat chorus, to the short but sweet solo at the bridge, this song just get’s into your head and stays there for days, and you most likely will not be sad about it.
While lead singer Thad Cockrells perfomance on Spotlight is great, his voice is pretty limited to the higher notes and he falters quickly when he has to go out of his short range. On most songs he get’s the job done very well, and his voice actually is recognisable, which is good because the Band struggles to differentiate them from other Indie Pop acts. But on more then one instance a stronger vocal performance could have carried some of the more mediocre songs, and Cockrell is not able to do that. The instrumentation on most songs is rock solid, but aside from a few standout guitar riffs nothing to write home about. Jeremy Lutito and Tyler Burkum clearly know what they are doing, and especially Guitarist Burkum has knack for coming up with melodies that catch on instantly. Crafting simple yet suprisingly effective melodies and also lyrics is definitely a strongpoint of the whole album.
This was already evident on the selftiteld EP, which returns in full force, with all of the three tracks from the EP beeing on the LP as well. Magic, Haunted and Mind Games return in slightly tweaked versions, which don’t really differ that much from the original cut, the production is a little better, but the songs stayed the same. These three songs from the EP are some of the stronger tunes on the whole Album, with Magic being the only song who could be called rock, although it’s still very accesible and it’s only slightly less poppy than the other songs because Burkum throws in a great riff which could have been on your favorite classic rock album. Haunted and Mind Games fall in the same category as Spotlight, they are genuinely good indie tunes, which are highly enjoyable, although they lack that certain oomph that Spotlight has.
Sadly this already hints at the biggest flaw of the entire album, the Nashville trio is only really good when they stick to their comfort zone, and their comfort zone is not all that huge. It’s not like the band is not trying to diversify their sound at all, but in most cases, it’s not really working out all that great. The Albums centerpiece, Lost it all has the band going for a ballad with a huge, emotional chorus and the song falls flat on his face because frankly, Cockrell simply does not have the required vocal range to deliver a big, sweeping, emotional chorus that the band obviously was going for. Instead he croons in a high pitched voice that is far and away from saving the boring verse which led up the refrain. To make it worse the simplicity of the lyrics, which is usually a strongpoint of the album, because it makes the messages relatable, just comes off as bland and tired, when Cockrell repeatedly chants:
I’ve already lost it all
I’ve already lost it all
I’ve already lost it all
Other attempts in diversifying their sound don’t fare much better, with the title track You Belong here just being pretty boring and repetitive and the Outro friendly fire having some touching lyrics, but no intresting instrumentation or melodies to back it up properly.
In short, Leagues deliver excatly what one would expect after hearing the selftiteld EP, and for the most part, this is a good thing and makes for a pretty great debut, with the good songs outweighing the bad ones by a very respectable margin. The Band seems to be well aware of the fact, that they are not producing the most complex songs mankind has ever heard it, and they deliver the rather simple songs and lyrics with enough esprit and sincerity, that it's just fun to tag along for the ride. Sadly, the Band also leaves the listener wondering, where they will go from here. Will they just continue to churn out the same two songs over and over again? Or will they be able to expand their sound and develop as a band? Only time will tell, but for what it’s worth, this is a respectable first effort.