At the same moment that the indie web goes volubly atwitter with the assessment and reassessment of its latest discovery, the noise-punk duo No Age and the L.A. scene that circumscribes them, another California music collective is getting by with much less publicity but with arguably comparable chops. San Francisco’s the Botticellis recorded its debut LP Old Home Movies with the help of Paper Cuts’s Jason Quever, whose underrated 2007 debut stirred a potent mix of sun-drenched folk laments and laidback anthems, and Matt Cunitz, who in addition to running a vintage keyboard repair shop in town, frequently gigs with local bands and turned up on the sessions for John Vanderslice’s Pixel Revolt. The Botticellis borrow significant elements from their Bay Area forbears but they more closely recall Alex Chilton’s power-pop and British post-punk than fermented Jackson Browne (which seems to be the objective of Paper Cuts, not that that’s a bad thing). Traces of more recent favorites such as the Strokes and the Shins appear too, which means the Botticellis are catchy as hell.
What the Botticellis have first and foremost is great hooks, but there are enough interesting accoutrements to give the album conceptual heft. According to the band, some of the songs on Old Home Movies have been gestating for upward of three years, which is hardly surprising given their intricacies and singularities. Nary an idea is recycled, and even brief songlets like “Up Against the Glass” seem to have realized their fullest potential. The standout of the album is “The Reviewer,” a summery romp that three-fourths of the way through crashes abruptly into a dreamy, half-timed ballad. The Travis-channeling tremor of “New Room” is a perfect approximation of Northern Californian melancholia, where even a rainy day in paradise is still a day in paradise. “Who Are You Now” revisits familiar chamber-pop conventions in its sweeping scope, breezy backing vocals and symphonic interlude, but somehow comes out sounding optimistically fresh. Where the guys in No Age seem to blitz through a grungy urban milieu like vegan bicyclists high on life, the Botticellis traipse by scenic overlooks drunk off locally made wine. And though vocalist Alexi Glickman’s words are often difficult to decipher, I want to believe the lyrics are about sleeping inside redwoods and praying to the Pacific Ocean.
Clocking at just under half an hour, with a variable set of songs that sound like what a lot of other good bands might sound like were they to be put on permanent vacation, Old Home Movies might seem like too easy a pill to swallow. Think of it this way: The Botticellis have done the work already, so you won’t have to do a thing. Columnists may have less to blog about, and listeners will have less to think about. So take off for the summer. I hear San Francisco’s beautiful this time of year.