It ain't exactly all river deep, mountain high on the latest from Detroit-area denizens, Chris Richard and the Subtractions on Peaks and Valleys. As you might expect, their latest pitches a few variables, including a serene ballad or two, but writ large Peaks finds the quartet elevating themselves to a different plateau than where they were stationed on 2012's Get Yer La La's Out.
Specializing in power pop with a refined and classicist touch, Richard's and Co. don't exactly exude an aptitude in the manner of Shoes and Smithereens, so much as the more nuanced mannerisms of the Gin Blossoms, Dillon Fence and Velvet Crush. In fact, Peaks and Valleys showcases the band at a similar vantage point to where Teenage Fanclub were situated around the era of Songs From Northern Britain. With this kind of maturity and seasoning comes attendant savvy and sophistication, which you'll find in spades on "Just Another Season" and "The Coast is Clear." Even with a more lucid vision and tact than ever, these guys manage to sidestep anything approaching stodgy or ostentatious. Aggression, however, is in much more minimal supply on Peaks. But despite the lack of power chord melees, there are some heightened tempos infiltrating the likes of "Half Asleep," and a little further in the tense and relatively angsty "Call Me Out." "In a Sense" piles on some serious harmonies, while the album's penultimate track is none other than a faithful remake of Big Star's "Thirteen," decked out in piano just as much guitars.
Listening to Peaks, even at a cursory level, you can't escape the
notion that you've been here before, if only for the fact this quartet
aren't attempting to invent, recreate or even outdo much of...anything. The Subtractions premise is pretty elementary - expertly structured and carefully measured pop that's succulent and ripe for the picking, which is precisely what you'll get on this tight but gracefully lived-in outing.
Peaks and Valleys is available physically and otherwise straight from the band, their Bandcamp site, Amazon and digitally on iTunes.