album reviews

The Redwalls
The Redwalls
Mad Dragon Records (2007)
Johnathan Rice
Further North
Reprise Records (2007)

Somehow it's no surprise that the Redwalls' sibling vocalists Logan (guitar) and Justin (bass) Baren once played in a Beatles/Stones cover band. That British Invasion feel continues to permeate the group's sound on its self-titled release, including the catchy singalong pop choruses of "Put Us Down" and "Summer Romance." "The Redwalls" may be a bit predictable and derivative, but it's still an infectious, highly danceable collection of songs.

Logan Baren's tinny lead vocals capture the breakup angst on "Game of Love"; as he chokes out the song's title, his faltering voice mixes his sorrow with the slightest wry admission that relationships are just a game. That may be the only time he shows any sign of slowing down. The rest of the album rumbles with energy, all the way to the closing number, "In the Time of the Machine." The processed vocals sound as though the Beatles' walrus will come koo-koo-ka-chooing at any turn.

Johnathan Rice emulates a different model -- the swoony male singer-songwriter -- and ends up sounding like an even more boring version of the Wallflowers on his second effort, "Further North." The album's high point comes on "End of the Affair," a duet with Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis, who is a co-writer on most of "North's" tracks. Lewis barely has two lines here without Rice, but her gorgeous harmonies throughout the song easily steal his spotlight.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 30 November 2007, Page WE07
.: Items mentioned above on The Redwalls (The Redwalls, 2007); Further North (Johnathan Rice, 2007).