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The Elected 

Me First (Subpop)

This California band is an offshoot of indie semi-stars Rilo Kiley, and it turns that band's worry rock into bittersweet pop. West Coast popsters always end up in this phase, whether it's Loggins parting ways with Messina or Steven Malkmus launching a solo career. So you get a lot of pretty music on the Elected's debut, with French horns, surging choruses, and occasional slide guitar, along with lazy rhythms for the tipping of that suburban-cowboy hat.

There are gems aplenty here. "Waves," with its odd handclaps, is especially nice, as is "Don't Blow It," a rocking tear-jerker. Vinyl dust-'n'-scratch samples and winding, repetitive Casio-keyboard tinkling seamlessly connect everything like a long, lonely-hearts blog.

But then the lyrics take it from there. You can hear lower lips trembling in the laments about drunken dads, abandoned moms, and lost (undoubtedly bored) girlfriends. Thanks to the breathy vocals that utterly dominate the mix, the sentiments seem disingenuous. It's supposed to be all intimate, but when Blake Sennett has to ratchet up the pipes as songs swell, it's obvious he can't sing, which is kind of a prerequisite for pretty pop. The band could elect to mess up their mixes and weird things out, but we've already got Califone for that.

More by Eric Davidson

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