Broken West

I Can't Go On, I'll Go On (Merge)

Of the somewhat retrograde pop moodsters on Merge's roster these days, Broken West offers the least concessions to any modern "updating." The band's sound is a retro confection cooked with five parts Big Star, three parts Byrds, and a pinch of Flamin' Groovies, and stirred with an unscuffed Rickenbacker. Beatles hooks curve either in grand announcement style ("On the Bubble," "You Can Build an Island," "So It Goes"), or strummy etherealities ("Shiftee," "Baby on My Arm") like boozy memories of '74 AM radio. But these fellows are young enough to have to strain to remember first hearing Teenage Fanclub. Hence, I Can't Go On has the engaging honesty of first-time discovery, and even if it's all a bit familiar, it's also impressively strong and confident in songwriting and production. Unlike the plethora of swirling indie pop out there (much of it coming from the Los Angeles scene these guys swirl in), there's no drop-down-menu "noise" laid on or third-generation Pavement poetics to cloud either a lack of confidence or falsely modest pretensions. Some lyrical invention would help distinguish mostly rote gal-pal and climate ruminations, but that should come in time. For now, singer Ross Flournoy is at least prudent enough to admit, "You were right about me stealing all my songs," ("Like a Light"). Eric Davidson

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