While we drool over the Animal Collectives and Grizzly Bears of the world attempting to outdo each other in the weirdly raw world of ambient bedroom rock (not that there’s anything wrong with that), the well-constructed pop album may very well go unnoticed in the meantime. Perhaps because pop music as a genre is difficult to keep fresh in its timelessness, perhaps it’s not enough to simply create infectious hooks set to solid backbeats in this day and age. However, when a truly excellent pop album emerges, it has the power to remind us why we all fell in love with the time-honored tradition of three chords and hooks in the first place. Take 2005’s Twin Cinema, for example—the New Pornographers more or less exceeded any and all expectations for their third album, nabbing the #1 spot on Treble’s top albums of 2005, and solidifying their spot right next to the Broken Social Scene leviathan.
And now, for 2007, we have Georgie James’ Places, a delightfully unexpected debut that fulfills expectations not quite met with albums like Challengers. Who could have predicted that a singer-songwriter like Laura Burhenn would team up with former post-hardcore Q and Not U drummer John Davis to make such a catchy yet intelligent set of tunes that are both original and uncannily familiar? The duo, who came together in 2005 when Q and Not U disbanded, found common ground in their own personal musical tastes and abilities, allowing them to create a fantastic album that is innovative while staying rooted roots in the ’50s/’60s/’70s influences that constructed pop music as we know it.
Everything you could want from a good pop album appears on Places, from the immediately catchy (“Look Me Up,” “Need Your Needs,” “Places”), to the light-hearted (“Cake Parade,” “Long Week”), to the gauzy and creative (“Comfortable Headphones,” “Cheap Champagne”). “Henry and Hanzy” and “Hard Places” are wonderful folksy gems taking cues from many a ’60s singer-songwriter, and “Only `Cause You’re Young” closes the album with a hip-shaking explosion of hand claps and power-pop hooks. Overall, the angular tunes are textured with countermelodies and layered vocals that wrap around your brain and put the funk back in your funky shoes, and you’re left satisfied with something much more than superfluous bubblegum pop. As long as bands like Georgie James are alive and well, there’s no need to turn one’s back on pop music, or to forget that there’s always room for more.