Jamie and Steve
Call them Jamie and Steve and someone to whom the SpongeTones are an unknown quantity might ask "Jamie and Steve who?" Say Jamie and Steve are members of the SpongeTones to a classical music devotee and said devotee might come back with the question "Are they baroque, and have they played with the London Symphony?" This is your chance, then, to educate your friends and neighbors, to bring to their attention the beauteous sounds made by the four members of the world-famous SpongeTones, and to announce with great aplomb from the highest rooftops and lowest street-level patios that two of the SpongeTones, the high priests of pop music, have taken some time away from their group to buddy up with multiple instruments in hand and multitracked vocals in tow and wax a dozen songs all their own, played on their own and delivered under the banner English Afterthoughts.
On this record, Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel are the Spongerly Brothers, two close-harmony pros joined at the larynxes, microphones and melody-rich songs mostly written together at the ready, both ready for just about any happy accident or pre-planned musical surprise that might come their way. But who's to say which is which on this glorious platter? And how did this platter come to be; why did it take so long to manifest itself? These and other such shot-in-the-dark questions are of no consequence; it's the music on this platter that matters.
Right off the bat, the Spongerlys announce themselves, with earned bravado, with the two-minute-long blast of assured songcraft, "Emily's Ghost," a sparkling, too-rare-these-days example of the perfect pop song. Short and sweet and exploding with melodic bliss, it's nothing less than something from out of this world. Listen to the chunky, multitracked, percussive harmonies propelling the rhythm in tandem with the propulsive drums, and listen, especially to those harmonies, those wonderful harmonies, and listen to them come together with all of the song's elements in a senseful, dramatic stop that ends right where it should, in a harmonious blast of closure.
Jamie and Steve are the Spongerly Brothers, two close-harmony pros joined at the larynxes, microphones and melody-rich songs mostly written together and at the ready, both ready for just about any happy accident or pre-planned musical surprise that might come their way.
Listen to more great harmonies and melodies and all other such treasure in golden moments galore, in"Fly Girl," a spirited tune with the spotlight rightly on the vocals beginning at 2:02; in the upbeat "Between the Lines, in which both Hoover and Stoeckel take separate leads, Stoeckel especially impressive with his high tenor; in "English Afternoon"; in the explosive "Let's Don't Count This One," a slice of modern-day beat music with great harmonies; in the blissful "Girly Girl," which sports a gorgeous chord sequence wrapped around a typically hooky melody; in the thoroughly delightful toe-tapper "Feeling You Watching Me Watching You," a song as typical of Jamie and Steve as the songs on this album get.
This cannot come as a surprise folks, at least after even a cursory listen to these songs. That English Afterthoughts should be such a spectacular success is, really, a given. There is real craft being bandied about here, superb musicianship on offer, a splendid time guaranteed for all. And the bond between Jamie and Steve is infectious, as infectious as great music gets.
As Jamie writes in his liner notes, "With Steve, it's just like falling off a log to me--it's so easy. I'll fall off a log with him anytime." Hey fellas, save a place on that log for me, will you?
January 3, 2010