Asleep in the Sea Yay! OK. Yeah? EP

[Self-Released; 2004]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: cowpunk, pop, twee
Others: The Unicorns, Weezer, Dead Milkmen

Asleep in the Sea are a new trio from the western United States, with a penchant for the sing-songy bittersweet, shanty-anthem. While their band name may lead one to think of something more nebulous, their music is very grounded in the pop vein. The only submerged sounding moment occurs on the reverb-laden closer, "Ho Hum." Closer to their sound is their EP title. It speaks to the sense of playfulness and whimsy on their Weezer-esque ditties.

Unlike that band, Asleep in the Sea tempers their crunch 'n' soar with some ramshackle jangle and seemingly off-the-cuff vocal delivery. The vocals are delivered with great aplomb, but in an earnest way can draw too much attention to the lyrics. And they're pretty hit-and-miss, wavering between utter nonsense and forlorn sentiments. Things can get a bit 'cute' at times, particularly with the cloying harmony so often implemented.

For their full-length, the group could stand to apply some more variety to their tone. The saccharine soft-shoe mope, even on this brief EP, can become somewhat tiresome. On the other hand, there's enough involving production touches to prevent their sound from blending in with the many heart-on-their-sleeve rockers out there. Handclaps, yelling, clinking bottles, and a nice array of weird keyboard sounds consistently manage flesh out their tunes in a refreshing manner.

While my favorite was initially the opener, "Annie," the power ballad that follows has now replaced it. "Dance On" has an irresistible soaring harmonic chorus whose high "Ahhhh" really puts the hook in. The whooping in the background during the beginning quiet of the tune's climax is a great touch. If the group manages some songs as fun as this, or as sublimely moody as "Ho Hum" for their full-length, they'll definitely have something. Naturally, their pining tones are either charming or trite depending on your mood, much like Weezer or any other playful indie pop available.

Some of you may have seen them at this year's South By Southwest music fest, and if they were as free and fun as they are on this release, I'm sure they made a good impression. Fans of unabashedly immediate, 'aw shucks' pop-rock should definitely take note.

1. Annie
2. Dance On
3. Seashorses
4. Punch In The Face
5. Ho Hum