Bring on the major leagues. Over the past six years, Oakland's pop darlings the Audrye Sessions have blossomed from the minimalist coffeehouse project of Ryan Karazija and Alicia Marie Campbell to a full band. In the process, they've emerged as one of the more lush, melodic acts around. Their debut for Black Seal is equal parts predictable and impressive. Polished to a shine, the 12 songs on this self-titled release showcase the band's talent for dynamically moody, orchestrated, Brit-inclined power-pop. It's a derivative sound, but executed with enough skill to prove charming. Karazija's vocals soar in a manner that begs for Thom Yorke comparisons, while lead guitarist Michael Knox weaves in spaced-out countermelodies. Drummer James Leste and bassist Campbell keep pulse with mechanical precision, furthering the band's tendency to embrace grandiose swells.
The record features a number of cameo string and piano parts that add to the epic, hyperemotive qualities of the songs. The ballads can feel a bit melodramatic, though, and the band is at its best on infectious mid- to uptempo tracks like "Juliana" and "Where You'll Find Me." Lyrically, Karazija touches on the subjects of relationships and war waging with more tact than many of his peers, throwing in a bit of self-deprecation for good measure. While the radio-ready genre the band adheres to is at times frustratingly familiar, when it comes to music for the masses, the Audrye Sessions play an A game. Brian Moss