Given that the first two songs on Everything Under the Sun are called “Schizophrenia” and “Half Crazy,” one might assume Jukebox the Ghost write songs about scarring mental afflictions. And they kind of are, except they’re playful, upbeat and jittery. “Schizophrenia” tumbles out of the looney bin with nervous, ping-ponging vocals about relationship-induced madness. “Yes it is, no it isn’t/ yes it is, no it isn’t/ here they come, here they come/ they’re after me,” go the disorienting lyrics, over an insanely jaunty piano accompaniment.
Pianist Ben Thornewill plays beautifully throughout. Comparisons with Ben Folds are appropriate, especially after touring together last year. “The Sun” pairs sparkling piano arpeggios with a soaring melody and Tommy Siegel’s crunchy guitars. Thornewill’s singing takes full command of the higher registry on “So Let Us Create,” the most gorgeous song on the album. He can do frazzled, dismayed, and elated with equal aplomb. The band slows down into quieter, more thoughtful territory near the record’s middle section. “Summer Sun” sounds like three songs in one short burst. “Don’t look at me like another soul” pleads Thornewill on “Mistletoe,” sounding like he’s washed down mouthfuls of sand with cold coffee.
You would never know it from the band’s sunny sound that Everything Under the Sun is produced by the same guy who has twiddled knobs for The National and Interpol, groups not known for especially cheery dispositions. Yet, moments on the album, like “Half Crazy” and “The Stars” are almost teen pop, with their tight harmonies and polished grease-slick veneers. The attractiveness of the record then, is that the Philly trio is only deceptively upbeat. Beneath the obvious Morrissey mimicry of lovely songs like “Let Us Create” is a melancholic pull that gives the record occasionally ominous undertones.
Jukebox the Ghost sounds like the kind of non sequitur Bob Pollard might come up with. In fact, it’s an anagram of Captain Beefheart and Nabakov references, that will appeal to every listener with an appreciation for tunes that pull at the intellect, as much as the heartstrings. Everything Under the Sun is a must-listen to anybody who slipped comic books between college textbooks, got straight-As, and spent most classes doodling stick figures stabbing themselves in the groin.