The Food Network has made megastars out of professional chefs and everyday home cooks, making a combination of acting and the culinary arts reserved in the past only for the Julia Childs or Graham Kerrs of the world. But with This is Ivy League, cooking and theatrics come together in an altogether different and less obnoxious than “Bam!” way. This is Ivy League is the duo of school friends Ryland Blackinton and Alex Suarez. After high school, one took his love for Jewish cuisine to the culinary academy while the other’s philosophical differences with the deli sent him to a BFA in acting. The two, as kismet would have it, ended up in Brooklyn years later and formed a musical partnership that never quite got off the ground in high school.
With all of the varied genres and literally thousands of independent labels in existence, it would seem that the world could easily get lost in a massive sea of bands, but one thing’s for certain: there’s always room for another twee and cheery folk-pop act. Suarez and Blackinton may have made their names from the collaboration of Cobra Starship, co-writing the song “Snakes on a Plane (Bring It),” but the duo will gain respect and a devout indie fan base from This is Ivy League. Their debut EP, London Bridges, whose title track is included on this full-length self-titled debut, garnered the pair comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel, Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura and Peter, Bjorn & John. All seem apt, as This is Ivy League meets those comparisons and more, bringing harmonic folk ditties, twee pop head shakers and bossa nova chillouts back in style yet again.
“The Richest Kids” and the aforementioned “London Bridges” set the tone for the rest of the album, with the duo’s dulcet vocals laid gently over jangling guitars that make you want to get up and dance like a Peanuts character. The equally catchy “A Summer Chill” and the two very Simon & Garfunkel-inspired tracks “Modern World” and “Til the Day” continue proving that the album can be mined further for gold that isn’t just relegated to introductory singles and openers. The Smiths-like closer “Don’t Waste Your Love on Me,” borrowing a page from Johnny Marr’s guitar playbook, but ditching Morrissey’s glum-ridden vocals for sunny cheer, is also worth the waiting around.
The boys of This is Ivy League are continuing to split their time between the currently more well known and, in turn, lucrative, Cobra Starship, but the irresistible pop drive of this side project might just lure them away for good. Then again, one could get a gig on a soap opera while the other opens his own delicatessen, naming sandwiches after indie pop heroes. After all, who wouldn’t want a Rick Rubin sandwich, with a side of Robert Pollard Greens and a Neutral Milk Shake? Damn, maybe I should’ve kept that a secret and done it myself…