Johnny Action Figure | Asks the Room to Please Stop Spinning (DRP)

cd_jafThe biggest complaint to be lodged against this EP is that, at 24 minutes, it's far too short.






A few seconds into "Lose Your Face," the opening track on Johnny Action Figure's second release, the wispy, gentle vocals kick in and you'd swear this seven-song EP might be a collection of long-lost Death Cab for Cutie demos. But as the song continues and the up-tempo rocker continues to shift speeds and melodies, you'll notice that something else is afoot. Though the sound of the vocals and instruments are all very in tune with Ben Gibbard's version of emo, Johnny Action Figure take a more melodic approach that will appeal to DCFC fans without ever coming off as a pale imitation.

The one thing that really separates this Reading, Penn., quartet from their Washingtonian compatriots is the much stronger emphasis on the vocal interplay between singer/guitarists Chris Sheehan and Brendan Fullam. Whether the pair trade off (as they do to great effect on "Lose Your Face") or support each other (the oozin' ahs and call-and-response vocals of "Replaced With Lampposts"), the result is still the same: melodic pop-rock that's classicist in approach yet uniquely modern in execution. With the vocal melodies as a centerpiece, instrumentation varies wildly from song to song to accommodate them, from jaunty piano soft rock (the Summerteeth-ish "Replaced With Lampposts") to blaring horns and slicing, punked-up guitars ("Francis") to keyboards straight out of an eight-bit Nintendo game ("Like a Canary").

The band manages to turn the emo staple of the acoustic album closer on its ear with "Your Fortune's Gonna Leave You," an upbeat song built on the kind of folksy, strummed acoustic guitar on which Guster built their reputation. The song's gentle, ambling pace and wonderful vocal harmonies already make it delight, but when the cute whistling kicks in like something straight out of the Disney classic "Oo-De-Lally," it takes the proceedings to another level entirely. The biggest complaint to be lodged against this EP is that, at 24 minutes, it's far too short, though hopefully Johnny Action Figure can correct this oversight with their second full-length album…preferably sooner rather than later. B | Jason Green

RIYL: Death Cab for Cutie, The Anniversary

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