The new album from Indianapolis band Finest Grain, "In the Story - The Adventures of Kid B", plays as part song-cycle about growing up and, taken individually, the best tracks resonate as pop-rock gems, sharing sweetness and crunch and lyrics that stick.
Finest Grain - an Indianapolis duo of Sean Jackson and Kent Vernon (Jackson was a member of the Housemary's, the two teamed up to release one album as Dooga La Brown in 2000, and this record is a follow-up to Finest Grain's 2005 debut "One More Shot") - use an acoustic guitar base that drops in strident but tasteful rock drums and cutting rock and roll guitar. Let the album play, because the early idea that the sound will be lightweight and atmospheric goes away. It never falls into that trap, instead driving hard enough to hit your gut as much as your head.
The record opens with tough acoustic guitar strumming and welcomes those drums. There's some echo of Neil Young and U2 guitars in "Oceans Between (The Wayside)", and the album takes flight with the fourth and fifth cuts, the melancholy "Thanks Anyway" and churning, anthemic "Better?". While the sounds are familiar (think vocals reminiscent of a band like The Church or even one-hit wonders The Dream Academy), the album unfolds nicely, revealing a sound akin to an Midwest American version of Coldplay or a listener-friendly and accessible Radiohead. Every song loads up at least one little pop hook to keep a listener involved musically, and Jackson and Vernon craft many a chorus that earworms its way into your head.
They work to make the lyrics smart and music that lands below the waist consistantly enough to balance the cerebral and visceral. It's a record that ends up feeling hopeful, helped along by redemption-seeking album closer "Coming Home".
You can listen to the album online, as they are streaming it at finestgrain.com, and see them play at Locals only on May 21.