Like Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Show Your Bones just a few months prior, the second album from The Futureheads, News and Tributes, sounds on first listen like an album primed to confuse the legions of hipster kids who hailed the quartet as one of the it-bands of 2005. The most striking change is in the band’s pace: even at a scant 42 minutes, the 12 tracks that comprise News and Tributes are a few BPMs slower than their delirious debut. That’s not to say that the album is in any way less engaging, since the band’s killer four-part harmonies, already unrivaled in modern rock, have been arranged with even greater intricacy, and the overall tone of the album is considerably beefed-up from its predecessor. While their contagious enthusiasm was a big part of their appeal, that enthusiasm has matured into full-on rock star swagger (touring with Franz Ferdinand probably helped in that regard), and songs like lead-off “Yes/No” and phenomenal first single “Skip To The End” are refreshingly brash. But, beyond those harmonies, what distinguishes The Futureheads from so many other stylish, retro-conscious acts and what gives the band a good chance at surviving the post-dance-punk fallout is that their songs aren’t just empty braggadocio and cocksure strut. There’s an unmistakable soulfulness to The Futureheads’ songwriting and their performances on standouts like “Back To The Sea” and “Burnt,” and it brings the limitations of more concept-driven bands like The Strokes or The Darkness into sharp relief. If there’s nothing quite as instantly gratifying as was The Futureheads’ “Hounds Of Love,” the whole of News and Tributes still stands as a more accomplished album, muscular without being overpowering and stylish without being vacuous.
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