On first blush, the new album from Los Angeles agitators LA Font seems like the sound of a band growing up. But if you’ve been party to their guitar-spiked, slightly acidic nonchalance over the past six or so years, “Tells” (out today) is more a sign that they’ve grown out. At the risk of over-generalizing, it’s more Weezer than Pavement, catchy and sonically broad while still revealing the quartet’s mastermind, Danny Bobbe, as an elite turner of phrases. “Tells,” of course, is a poker term for changes in a player’s demeanor that reveal how good his hand is. And through two full-lengths and a handful of EPs, Bobbe has maintained one hell of a poker face, until he lays out his lyrics.
Produced by Alex Newport (At the Drive-In, the Mars Volta, Death Cab for Cutie, Bloc Party, as well as a growing number of local bands), “Tells” features bassist Greg Katz, drummer Harlow Rodriguez and new guitarist Mitchell Sheldon (who replaced Jon Perry). Among the album’s four blazing opening tracks, “Can’t Understand” stands out as edgy power-pop classic, with Bobbe riffing on bar culture (“So pull me a liquor from the top of the shelf / I promise not to die, it’s bad for my health”) leading up to soloing guitars squalling at each other. “Hit Me Lightning” lands a a few uppercuts to glad-handers; “Dinosaurs” wonders about our own path toward extinction; and “Octagon” sounds more like angular, last-generation LA Font.
Outside the box for LA Font, though, are the waltz “Beautiful Life” and the faintly Nick Drake-ish “Days.” Oh, and the beautiful “Leaf,” which features Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz on background vocals. It’s downright tender. A tell.
||| Stream: “Leaf”
||| Also: Stream “Tells” in its entirety via Spotify