Like so few musicians today, San Francisco rockers Communiqué remember the nonpejorative meaning of pop: buoyant melodies, clear, repetitive structures and a musical sense of humor. Granted, this group's roots still cling to emo sensibilities, which emerge occasionally as a hint of over-earnestness in the lyrics, but their sharp musicianship forgives all. New wave synths tastefully enhance the band's solid sound without feeling contrived or extraneous—a real feat—while the songwriting can bring a smile to your face long after the record's stopped playing. This is the true essence of pop.
Listening to Ricky Fanté's warm, smoke-slurred voice, fat brass band and gospel-choir backup singers, and his irresistible, seemingly pre-aged songs, I couldn't resist the comparison to his closest musical soulmate—Macy Gray. Fortunately for Fanté, his appeal goes deeper than Gray's novelty growl. Rewind sounds like a truly great Motown record, albeit one you've already heard, with songs that cover every major style (I was tempted to write "cliché") of the period. It's refreshing to hear such a wholesome and unironic record. Let's hope Fanté's future efforts expand the genre of soul, not merely rehabilitate it.
Tomatohead is the sort of band that sound great in a bar, electrifying the half-listening crowd with a visceral charge of cheery ogre-rock and monosyllabic silliness, but it's hard to see how anyone could get the same kick off their debut recording. I admit to being a bit charmed by their napkin-scrawled lyrics (if I had to choose a highlight, I'd say “You're just a beer drinkin', dick shrinkin', tea baggin' lazy bitch” tops them all), and I can't help admiring their fun loving attitude toward music making. Still, I'll save my money for the cover charge.