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Morning Benders 

Boarded Doors (Self-released)

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The painting on the Morning Benders' new Boarded Doors EP shows a boy sitting on a fallen tree, looking down at a fragment of a city. Above the buildings a smoggy glow fades into a sky with the band's name spelled out by the stars. It's easy to imagine this pensive sky-gazer on the cover mulling over the concerns that comprise the subjects of the songs here. The artwork and the music display a nostalgic longing, a desire to make sense out of life and love and to maintain a grasp on one's identity amid tumult.

The influence of Brian Wilson looms large on the record, both in the instrumentation and in the somber, wide-eyed lyrics. Opening track (and highlight) "Dammit Anna," even features a percussion break cribbed from the Beach Boys' "I'm Waiting for the Day." This shouldn't come as a surprise considering that Pet Sounds is a universal high-water mark for bedroom pop-players, and the Berkeley quartet handles its influence deftly. Perhaps what distinguishes Boarded Doors from the slew of other Wilson-aspirants is the marriage of a youthful outlook with Brill Buildinglike melodies. The songs evoke exuberance and melancholic introspection without drowning in sonic ambition. — John Garmon

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