The Format | Dog Problems (The Vanity Label/Nettwerk)

There are plenty of rides at this carnival, one for everyone.


At first listen, the Format's hyped Dog Problems is an over-crowded carnival of sounds (glockenspiel, strings, saxophone, chorus) and styles (waltz, power pop, indie, bar music). But if it's not about liking an album, it's about understanding it. And more often than not, once you've got it figured out, you end up liking it.

The variants on Dog Problems make comparisons to dozens of other bands all too easy. (And comparing them to the Shins doesn't mean anything anymore.) But it's pleasant, pure sing-along music. The pop rock riffs of "Pick Me Up" are basic enough, but it's the tambourine and drums that take it from basic to catchy. "I'm Actual" pleads with lyrics like "can we take the next hour and talk about me" repeated over an increasingly thick, whirling waltz that by the end is more sad than narcissistic. Although a bit heavy on harmonies and ooh-la-las, those are things listeners will lap up the most; in a word: showmanship.

I still can't tell if I like it. It might take a while. But there are plenty of rides at this carnival, one for everyone.

RIYL: The Arcade Fire, Polyphonic Spree

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