Atta Boy | Big Heart Manners | (self-released)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
It took eight years for the LA based Atta Boy to decide to follow-up 2012’s debut Out of Sorts. Lots of water passed under the foursome’s collective bridge since their last album, recorded after the group’s first year of college. The time away, and the personal/professional development that comes with it, makes this a more cohesive collection.
Not to be confused with the commercially slanted pop/rock outfit Attaboy (someone from one of these acts should have done a Google search), this Atta Boy (two words) features a more oblique if still alluring indie pop approach. Lead singer Eden Brolin’s vocals, somewhat similar to those of Edie Brickell, are front and center and ultimately the band’s success rests on her shoulders. One listen to Brolin’s approach and it’s clear, for those few who remember the quartet’s initial offering, that her voice has taken a deeper, more moving timber and a focused style.
The songs, all are titled with one word, reflect that sensibility too. From the pedal steel that floats through the emotional ballad “Devoted” to the far darker ruminations of “Night” that sounds like it was recorded as the band was in a dream state, Atta Boy balances sweet and sour/edgy and accessible, with a sure hand and narrower concentration that comes with waiting nearly a decade to record again. There’s a charming simplicity to the folksy “Naomi,” given a darker shade with thumping, heartbeat-like drums and Brolin’s emoting “Naomi can’t have none of you until the day you’re dead.” The jazz tinged, waltz-time “Boxer” jauntily glides along like walking through a lush garden, enhanced by subtle yet ominous horns.
For every upbeat moment like the story song “Corpus” (as in Corpus Christi, who seems to be a character not a place), with a sing-along chorus of “Jane don’t change” and Freddy Reish’s David Lindley styled slide guitar, there is an equally dark moment like the gloomy, deliberately paced “Halfway.” The spacious sound, even on the most produced tracks like the latter tune, is what keeps this album so inviting.
Between Brolin’s enticingly supple voice, impressionistic lyrics worth deeper exploration and song structures that generally don’t usually typical verse-chorus-bridge-verse structure, Atta Boy’s decision to record another album, which might as well be a debut, was a smart move.
Hopefully the third one won’t take as long.
photo by Maya Richardson