Leagues, Alone Together

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Leagues
Alone Together
(Dualtone)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Those who don’t live in or near Nashville likely believe it is populated only by acoustic guitar slinging singer-songwriters honing their craft on scruffy six strings. But there are many other styles of music originating from Music City and Leagues is a perfect example of the diversity found there.

Anyone who heard 2013’s debut from the duo of Thad Cockrell and Jeremy Lutito (a.k.a. Leagues), both music veterans, understands they are more influenced by mid-’80s pop than anything out of Sun Studios. But push that concept further toward MTV-in-its-prime territory and you’ve got Alone Together, the band’s sophomore full length. Even if neither the disc’s title nor the band’s sound is particularly distinctive, Cockrell and Lutito’s shift into superbly constructed synth-based funk pop yields an intoxicating elixir.

Take the murkier aspects of Howard Jones, Human League, Gary Numan and New Order, fold in some dark, intermittently cynical, more often alienated lyrics and you’ve got an edgy, retro-leaning yet contemporary album as effective on the dance floor as it is at home reading the generally unsettling words, many referring to the complications of love.

Producer Lutito gets credit for the difficult task and impressive restraint of overdubbing multiple instruments he and Cockrell handle, along with guest-backing vocalists and other studio musicians. The songs generally aim for the feet-incorporating strains of anxious funk from Gang of Four and occasionally The Clash. Cockrell handles lead vocals with a voice reflecting hurt and insecurity in words such as “And then I watched you drift away/ I just took a deep breath and cried/ I’ll get over you in time/ I’m not ready” from “Slow And Steady.”

This release had a challenging genesis with an earlier version ultimately scrapped and re-recorded. The final product successfully combines complex, somewhat obtuse, usually melancholy ideas with keyboard-based melodies that go down easily yet leave an often disturbing aftertaste.