Album Review: Librarians with Hickeys – Handclaps & Tambourines

Their name might be on the unfortunate side, but Librarians with Hickeys know how to craft a winning tune. The trio engages in some straightforward truth-in-labeling on their latest release, titling the 12-song collection Handclaps & Tambourines. That tells you a great deal of what you need t6o know about the music therein. So I’ll simply fill you in on a few other salient details.

“I Better Get Home” opens the album with a solid beat, some tasty combo organ and spirited unison shouts of “Hey!” Can’t go wrong with that approach, and they don’t. Strong melodies and assured playing and arrangement are offered up in ample supply throughout the record. The Rickenbacker jangle of “Ghost Singer” will appeal to fans of Velvet Crush. There’s some breezy vibes on “Fairground,” a slightly darker and more contemplative tune that still works well in the context of a largely peppy set of tunes.

“Can’t Wait ‘Till Summer” has the feel of prime Beach Boys, if the southern California heroes had backing by, say, the Smithereens. “Lady Overdrive” feels more like what we might expect form Midwestern alternarockers (Urge Overkill, Cheap Trick, Material Issue). The shimmering “Stumbling Down Memory Lane” is a rockier rethink of the Left Banke without the baroque elements. “When We Were young” is more in that vein, with effective and subtle use of Mellotron (and, yes, handclaps). The album finsihes as strong as it starts: “Me and My Big Mouth” skillfully balances winsome melancholy and an inviting melody.

That variety is part of the strength of Librarians with Hickeys: they rock right, but they don’t write the same song over and over. Handclaps & Tambourines is heartily recommended.