Sports would annoy the hell out you if they weren’t so goddamn endearing. They have a generic, non-search engine friendly name (one already being used by a band who released a different, pretty okay record this year) – a name, incidentally, that seems to likely drip with irony. Their music screams “indie” in a way that bullies who throw words like “hipster” and “faggot” around would have a field day with. And to top it all off, there’s a good chance the band breaks up after their new sophomore release All of Something.
But goddamn their music is endearing – endearing enough to get past all of those issues. In the short description listed on their Facebook page, they directly state “friends first band second,” so it can’t be all that shocking that the band will go their separate ways after this release to do things like teach Latin or go to medical school. And after listening to All of Something, for Sports to end and return to life’s mundane normalities would feel satisfying.
All of Something is an album of crisp vocals and defined, jangly guitar lines. What makes Sports newest LP a refreshing return to the simplicities of indie rock and roll is that it cuts away all the bullshit and guesswork. They’re direct on All of Something, and whether that’s singing about their clean socks or the fact that its Saturday, you never get the feeling that you’re being tricked into losing sight of big philosophical metaphors or misunderstood gravitas. For Sports, a washing machine is, well, simply a washing machine – and sure singing about it highlights the pedestrian nature of domestication or routine or normalcy, but for the members of the band there’s a comfort in that. These are simple songs, with simple melodies and catchy hooks that actively fight the vagueness and headiness of modern pretentious indie rock.
And take pause with that last sentence all you want. We all like pretentious indie rock, don’t get me wrong. But that’s what makes Sports specific approach feel so clean; not only are these songs genuinely fun but they’ve been made just as seriously and with just as much intent as whatever other indie band you want to list. Boutique independent labels have had no issues delivering short, simple and delightfully enjoyable albums and that’s particularly true of Sports label Father/Daughter Records (who also have notable, if not quite as great, releases this year by bands like Diet Cig and PWR BTTM). All of Something stands with albums like the 2014 gem Zentropy by Frankie Cosmos, or even the timid and mildly underwhelming Before the World Is Big by Girlpool from earlier this year, as reminders that simplicity and directness in music can be a breath of fresh air.
In just over 28 minutes, Sports blitz through power pop humdingers and K Records twinges of nostalgia effortlessly, stopping to slow down only on lead singer Carmen Perry’s vocal workout “Harder” and the bendy stripped down penultimate track “Clean Socks”, both of which are wonderfully interjected into the generally high energy track listing. And each of the rapid toe tapping singles, “Get Bummed Out”, “Reality TV”, “The Washing Machine”, and “Saturday” are each so specifically built around sing-a-long moments and twee-pop anthems that its impressive the album doesn’t feel top heavy with headfirst power pop.
It’s easy to hate Sports for all the reasons I mentioned earlier. And after you listen to their newest album, you too will conclude that, if they do break up one day, they’ll be destined to exist as a footnote on the soundtrack of something like Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist 2: Mix of Destiny – a sad way to summarize a band and a record that is filled with straightforward joy and nostalgia. But don’t hate Sports. Embrace Sports. As some hacky, self-serious, hated douchebag somewhere is saying to a depressed coworker, “it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile”, so let All of Something be that reason to smile. Grade: B+