Omaha's Son, Ambulance, the indie brainchild of singer Joe Knapp, actually has more in common with its Brit-pop contemporaries than it does Saddle Creek's usual array of sentimental Midwestern gunk-purveyors. A more focused effort than the group's 2001 debut, Key borrows vocal melodies from British pop's royalty (Beatles, Stones, Floyd), but manages to sidestep the cheesy spin that contemporary bands like Travis and Coldplay have given to those same influences. Knapp is clearly a clever lyricist and singer, but it's the arrangements that make the record: herky-jerky drums, minimalist piano, and sparse, well-placed guitars. The result is a joyful, catchy and decidedly psychedelic indie-pop record that reminds us that it's possible to be from the Midwest without being so mopey and forlorn.
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