La Rocca, OK Okay (Dangerbird Records, 2008)

A "pop" song used to mean a song that could appeal to broad range of people, due to factors like a strong melody, a chorus that sticks in your head, a lyrical subject that people can easily relate to, and perhaps strong instrumental performances or good vocal harmonies. Somewhere along the line, things changed. Today's pop market is more likely to reward cheap, instant gratification than a catchy melody, and performers who embrace pop music in the more conventional sense are often categorized, somewhat perversely, as "alternative."

Such is the case with La Rocca, an Irish band currently working out of California. Bjorn Baillie (vocals, guitar), Simon Baillie (vocals, bass), Nick Haworth (vocals, keyboards, guitar), and Alan Redmond (drums) play mid-tempo, no-fills rock, and specialize in strong melodies and group harmonies. Their second album, called OK Okay, came out at the end of September.

The music on OK Okay neither explodes in your face nor lulls you to sleep. Instead, La Rocca churn out one pleasant, radio-friendly song after another. I can envision most of these songs taking off on the charts with a little bit of exposure. But the album boasts two songs that are truly exceptional, and would already be massive hits in a more ideal world. The first of these, a song about finding contentment called "Half Speed," is characterized by a very singable chorus -- "Now I'm moving at half speed where once I ran; pretty soon, all the map reads is nowhere planned." The second is a beautifully poignant song called "Roadway Hymn." The band does a fine job of keeping the song from getting too slow or melancholy, and the vocal harmonies are simply superb.

OK Okay
might not be my favorite album of the year, but I think it's the most universally accessible album I've heard in a while. I can't imagine anybody disliking it. La Rocca have a pop sensibility that few current bands can match, and I get the feeling that they'll force their way into mainstream exposure before too long.

Overall grade: A-

reviewed by Scott

1 comment:

Chris Richards said...

"Half Speed" is an infectious earworm of a pop song. I recommend checking out this group for this song alone (but also for a track off a previous record called "Sketches (20 Something Life)").