Family of the Year are playing it safe on LP number two. Loma Vista is an album of reasonably enjoyable folk rock, with a deep emotional core.
Nettwerk Music Group, 2012
7.0 / 10.0
I’m not really sure how to feel about Loma Vista, the new album from the Los Angeles quartet, Family of the Year. It’s been a while between releases for the band – their debut, Songbook, came out back in 2009. There’s been a couple of EPs since then, but no full length LPs, and the line-up has shifted from a six-piece to a four-piece. So Family of the Year have obviously gone through a lot to put together their new album, and part of me really digs it. The jangly, upbeat indie rock that FOTY create is exactly the sort of music I like to think I can enjoy on a regular basis. Plus, the folk-style storytelling lyrics and the contrast in the band’s male-female vocal harmonies are added draw cards. But there’s also another small part of me that feels that FOTY isn’t really doing anything different from all the other guitar-based indie rock bands out there. In other words, Loma Vista is a nice record, but it’s also at times quite safe and unremarkable.
Loma Vista also suffers from that age-old problem of bunching all its best tracks up the front end of the album, and leaving not much of interest for the second half. “The Stairs”, “Diversity” and “St. Croix” are my highlights of Loma Vista – and they’re only the first three tracks. The keyboard parts on “Diversity” are particularly infectious, and the tropical Caribbean-style percussion on “St. Croix” makes for some dreamy listening. I just wish some of this awesome musicality was spread thicker across the full length of Loma Vista.
It’s also worth discussing the lyrical content of the album. Family of the Year have woven a heavy amount of sentiment, sadness, nostalgia and longing into the words of their second LP. Frontman Joe Keefe vocalizes a letter to his mother on the earnest, aching ballad “Hey Ma” – “It’s been so long since I’ve been home / And I don’t care if I ever get there / I just wanna see you all again”. “Hero” is also recognizably somber and downbeat, and even “Burial”, a song that appears to be quite upbeat and carefree at first glance, is still about death – “Bury with my guitar / Bury me with my records / Where I am going, I’m gonna need something to do”, goes the long list of instructions for Joe Keefe’s funeral, all played out in the song. It’s worth listening to Loma Vista with a very thick emotional skin, so as to avoid being bogged down with the more depressive elements of the record.
In the end, the sophomore release from Family of the Year is a neatly assembled, mostly entertaining 40 minutes of music. If you’re looking for some plain-and-simple guitar-driven indie rock, or you’re a fan of acts like Still Flyin’, Weird Dreams and Angus and Julia Stone, then you should probably check out Loma Vista. Otherwise, you could just download the single, “Diversity”, and leave it at that.
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