Jealous Sound, 'Kill Them With Kindness' (Better Looking)

9
Kill Them With Kindness
Critical Mass
Label: Better Looking

by Andy Greenwald

That Saves the Day poster on your wall may fade, but the importance of being earnest doesn't. Even grown-ups--those of us over the age of, say, 21--need their heartstrings plucked now and again, and, ladies and gentlemen of the jukebox jury, sometimes Wilco just ain't gonna cut it. Enter the Jealous Sound, a Los Angeles quartet whose debut album, Kill Them With Kindness, is emo for the rest of us-heartfelt guitar rock capable of punching you in the gut and patting you on the back.

J-Sound frontman Blair Shehan sketched out a memorable design for sensitive-indie-boy life with his previous band, Knapsack. Since then, Shehan's grown balder and bolder. There's a new ferocity behind these breathless melodies, the kind of disenchantment that only emerges after one's third or fourth layoff. Shehan has aged out of his target demographic, but his songs are still a visceral kick. On "Hope for Us," he passes out at a party and begs for mouth-to-mouth, desperate for oxygen (or some tongue); on "Guard It Closely," he shows up to Christmas dinner halfway between drunk and dead.

Shehan isn't afraid of dying of a broken heart-he's just afraid of dying. Hospital references abound, and self-medication is prescribed and described. Blissing out on his first E, Shehan swims in a "sea of alcohol and pills" and cuts his hands fumbling with a first-aid kit. But when his band, particularly ace guitarist Pedro Benito, kick-start his shaky ticker, the album takes off. "Naïve" is a power-pop "Everybody Hurts," and on the majestic "Anxious Arms," the fumbly awkward guy actually lives happily ever after.

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