“Los Angeles will not miss the two of us/No way.”
With that line, on a track halfway through their debut album “There’s a Light,” indie-pop band Act As If lets it be known they’re ready to move on.
Coming from a lesser group, I’d be inclined to roll my eyes. Bands clog the bars and clubs in this city, praying to the gods of fame and fortune while playing music that probably won’t get them home never mind a bigger stage.
Of course, songwriter/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Peter Verdell isn’t even singing about getting big. In keeping with the rest of the album’s ten tracks he’s singing about something much more personal, but after listening to the whole record, it’s almost impossible for those words not to take on a different meaning: this band is gonna blow up.
The secret? Surprise, surprise – it’s the songs. This is a record that follows in the rather large footsteps of Death Cab and Jimmy Eat World. It’s a record that name drops Sleater-Kinney and “Siamese Dream.” It aims high and Verdell brings his A game.
The tracks are big, they breathe, they swell and fill rooms. The hooks are there, but they’re clever – not the nursery rhyme chants that so many pop-inclined musicians fall back on. It’d be exciting enough to hear this kind of music on the second or third album of an established group, but it’s something special for a debut that was entirely self-produced and recorded by Verdell himself (with the exception of bass provided by bandmate Derrick Wong). The drums are crisp, the guitars sparkle like diamonds, and the vocals run smooth over those shiny rocks.
Best of all, each song carves its own identity. There’s a longing that haunts the record and ties it together sonically and emotionally, but the tracks never blur. The group even sticks the landing with “Hit the Ground,” which sports a hook that comes in second only to the album’s opener “There’s a Light,” (which was one of my favorite tracks of 2010 and should be listened to – loudly – right here.)
“Los Angeles will not get the best of us.”
Maybe not, but it’ll be a damn shame to see you go.
Below, the video for “Old Souls” offers up a sparkle of hope as a sea of yellow paint in a world of old tragedies:
Chris Cullari | Beat Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL| Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |