The Active Set - 11 (2011, Chisel Pixel) - A brief overview
Right out of 11's starting gate, "Let the Games Begin" exudes the type of warm syncopation and dexterous, instrumental reciprocity that goes a long way in defining the overarching tenor of The Active Set's seemingly auspicious debut album. Oh yeah, I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that these gentlemen know a thing or two about fusing such agile playing with rock solid hooks, the kind that yield a startling, visceral response as evidenced on "Gas Wars" and "Famous for Dying." From a purely musical standpoint, the Active Set originate from the same savvy terrain as Brendan Benson, Rogue Wave, and to a lesser extent Phantom Planet and Creeper Lagoon. Putting aside their plush, arpeggio-happy arrangements for a moment, what helps usher them into a field of their own is frontman/songsmith Matthew Stolarz, a budding popmeister whose wry takes on romance, sex, ambition, and even the open road are relatable, if not amusing. In fact, I have to wonder how Stolarz would employ the Occupy Movement as songwriting fodder, but I digress. "Counting Out Your Life" and "Best Summer Ever" are as lyrically considered as they are sonically intoxicating, and so goes much of the remainder of the album, enabling it to stimulate as consistently as it does. Not exactly one louder, 11 is still pretty golden, but don't be surprised if the Active Set surpass it in years to come. Buy 11 in it's entirety here.