[Rating: 4 stars]
Though you’d never know it, sunshiney Louisiana pop quintet Givers started more or less on a whim. As the story goes, singer and percussionist Tiffany Lamson was asked to fill time at a friend’s show, and invited the other band members on stage for an impromptu jam session. She recorded the gig just for kicks, and miraculously, their first demo was born. Several of the songs they improvised that night, “Up Up Up” and “Saw You First” among them, made it onto their new album, In Light, and crazily enough, they’re among the best of the already high-quality bunch.
“Up Up Up,” in fact, is a perfect opener to an impossibly optimistic album. There is not a moment of respite in the cheery tracks – even the romantic lulls are more puppy love than wistful yearning. Lyrically, the band complements their playful sound with sassy, tongue in cheek verses, particularly when Lamson takes the reigns and croons away, shrugging “you like your man ripe/I like mine still growing…” Standout “Ceiling of Plankton” is a starry, jangling summer anthem replete with woodwinds and charming winking lyrics, extolling the virtues of “keeping it warm / Not too tight/ Just like my favorite sweater.” It’s clever to the point of being almost nonsensical at times, but it fits the band’s sound and personality like, well, a good sweater.
What Givers is doing isn’t really anything new – like mainstream summer favorites Vampire Weekend, they’ve managed to successfully fuse sunny, celebratory indie pop with afro-beat sensibilities and shining faces. But Givers has something Vampire Weekend doesn’t, and we’re not just talking about a sexy lady vocalist, though it must be said that such a thing never hurts. No, the difference here is that while Vampire Weekend seems polished and refined, befitting the band members’ Ivy League roots and reputation, Givers is a decidedly uncouth explosion of joy, their scrubby, skinned knee musicianship jibing beautifully with their facepainted disco flower child mentality. The foolish, uncalculated grins slapped on each member of the band in every promotional photo and live appearance is enough to know that what you’re hearing is pure passion. The music is charismatic and chaotic, full of shouts, clanging and bright guitars – listen to it with your eyes closed and you’ll see everything short of sparkling blue stars.