Even though this came out last year, I just got my â??mittens' on Fools on a Holiday in time for perfectly mild and mostly sunny weather here in Bloomington and my spring break from the grind of music education (damn kindergarteners!). This is the perfect soundtrack for sunny days, breezy drives and just chillin'. It first reminded me of an up-and-comer group that snuck onto my Top 20 for `06,
the Sw!ms. Mittens aren't as dorky and they stick more with the straight-ahead pop rather than venturing into darker, more dissonant indie territory, but they are of a similar feel and mindset. I'm all about it.
The brisk shuffle of "Leeway" foretells of the sunny times you're in for, with the lightly distorted guitar jangling while "What happened to leeway?" croons over top. Throw in some tambourine and organ there for more of a no-worries `60s feel and there you have it. Nothing complicated here, just feel-good melodies and simple progressions to let you relax. Other than a little bit of piano, organ and a pinch of synthesizer and percussion, the Mittens trio keep it to the basics -- guitar, bass and drums -- and that's all they need for good tunes. I wouldn't have minded some more of the bright trumpet that appeared on "Belinda," an MP3 I grabbed from their previous self-titled debut, but that's okay.
"Douglas" showcases a slightly harder side of the group, with a struttin'-ready beat and an ultra-fuzz guitar appearing in the chorus. "Ain't No Doubt About It" sways slower but is busted wide open by a soaring Shins-style vocal line in the chorus. Some of the middle-album tracks blur together for me, but maybe that's just the medicine I need right now. I perk up again for my favorite: "Like a Shot." It's got a bit of a Strokes flavor with slightly-distorted vocals, but ends up sounding more like the best ditty Mando Diao never wrote, with its â??climb-up-to-falsetto' vocal line, taking a short breakdown before it stomps all over ya in the chorus. The album ends with an odd choice, a single live track entitled "Street Sweeper," with its false start and all, showing a spunky almost-Hot Hot Heat side of the band, with cracking, stuttering vocals and a jittery beat.
For the rest of you who haven't taken the hint on that Sw!ms thing and can't relate to that, I'd throw out names like the Shins or Belle & Sebastian, or farther back to late `60s work of the Kinks to tell you if you'd dig this or not. Sure, it's nothing out-of-this-world different, but sometimes you don't need a band crankin' a hurdy-gurdy or rattling your skull with five bass players. Sometimes all you want is that regular guitar-pop band setup with great melodies to hum along to. It's a beautiful day outside and Fools on a Holiday sure is working for me right now.