All the Stars and Boulevards
This major label debut from a SoCal band of (mostly) Midwestern transplants is a promising blend of big rock aspirations and well-controlled hints of emo and sensitive guy ballads. Yep, there are pianos and big, swelling arrangements that veer towards the melodramatic, but the band seems to understand the concept of restraint, all to their benefit. All the Stars features some gems that exhibit real songwriting promise and strong creative intuition. Besides the song “Boston,” which, after percolating for a year or so became a huge hit for the band and landed on a couple of TV shows, the title track itself is whopper, with a downhome, Counting Crows-ish vibe, and the big, sweeping guitars on opening track “Mayfield” are hard to resist. “Bullets” is all sticky vocal hooks that are hard to let go of, and ballads “Wasteland” and “Sunday Best” are a solid cut above most, with unique arrangements that showcase singer Dan Layus’ vocal skill. It’s hard to say what keeps the band from jumping head first into the emo pool, but somehow they do, and kudos to them; All the Stars is chock full of textures and an admirable amount of stretching for a band that could have ended up sounding like many others.