Now into their second decade, L.A. quartet The 88 has pretty much done it all: The foursome of Keith Slettedahl, Adam Merrin, Anthony Zimmitti and Todd O’Keefe have been next-big-things (ah, that Spaceland residency) and major-label shoulda-beens;Â they’ve released five full-lengths; they’ve scored movies; they’ve been serial contributors to films, TV shows, video games and advertisements (the “Community” theme, for instance); and they’ve toured as Ray Davies’ backing band – a fitting gig in the minds of many who in the early days likened their music to that of the Kinks. Like long-running guitar pop bands such as Fountains of Wayne and Nada Surf, The 88 is like the gift that keeps on giving – practitioners of timeless, meticulous songcraft.
||| Stream: “I Saw the Light That Day”
On their forthcoming sixth album, though, The 88 deviate from their compulsion for turning pop hooks into a big rock record – if much of their catalog is indebted to the Kinks, their new “Fortune Teller” is the band’s Beatles record. “We didn’t set out to do anything different,” Slettedahl says, “but suddenly we were jamming at Adam’s house and he was playing guitar and I was playing piano. I think that switch – along with the fact that Anthony isn’t playing any big rock drums – influenced the songs more than anything else.”
Indeed, “Fortune Teller,” recorded at the keyboardist’s home, is as imperfectly perfect as any recording The 88 has made. Sprinkled in reverb and a little bit of soul, the album, the band’s first since 2010, feels as warm and intimate as your favorite bedroom pop heroes.
“It’s more stripped-down, and there’s all this space in the songs,” Slettedahl says. “Because of how we recorded it, there’s all this bleed. You hear that in other people’s music and you think it’s cool, but when it’s you, you want it to be just right. So the challenge was to not make it too perfect; you don’t have to hear every instrument all the time.”
||| Live: The 88 celebrate their album release with a show June 12 at the Troubadour, supported by Aaron Embry.
Photo by Eric Cwiertny