Icon for Hire
Icon for Hire’s self-titled sophomore album bristles with defiant attitude while trading in a pop-punk sound that’s both abrasive and catchy. The Decatur, Ill.–based quartet avoids the sophomore slump with a set of cheeky, sonically aggressive tunes loaded with airplay potential. Lead singer Ariel slinks, preens, and exhorts her way through these tracks, radiating the brassiness of Dale Bozzio fused with the kooky charisma of Gwen Stefani. “Cynics & Critics,” “Nerves," and “Pop Culture” are typical of the swagger she brings to the band’s takedowns of superficiality and materialism. Her rapping skills are on full display in “Sugar and Spice,” a jittery yet buoyant tune loaded with electronic whooshes and guitar crunch. Angst spews freely in tunes like “Think I’m Sick,” tempered by the introspective balladry of “Rock and Roll Thugs.” The band displays a taut yet playful energy as it veers from the hard pop of “Sorry About Your Parents” to the metal-tipped techno of “Counting on Hearts.” Though its Christian-music beginnings aren't always evident here, Icon for Hire still makes it clear that its rebel anthems are on the side of life, love, and spiritual honesty.