Happy sound doesn’t help Pomegranates’ mediocre record

By Evan Minsker

My listening patterns seem to change with the seasons. In the fall, Neil Young’s more folk-inspired records are on rotation. By the end of the winter, it’s loud punk and lo-fi music. When it starts getting a little warmer outside, it’s nothing but indie-pop records. So it seems that the new album by Pomegranates has arrived just in time.

Pomegranates are an indie-pop band from Cincinatti. Everybody, Come Outside! is their second full-length album since they formed in 2006.

Many of their songs can be lumped into the baroque pop genre along with The Thrills and Broken Social Scene. However, there really isn’t an all-encompassing description of their sound for Everybody, Come Outside!. There is nothing consistent about the album.

Each song has a different mood and a different variation. It’s certainly an ambitious album, but the results aren’t always stellar.

The album opens with the title track, “Everybody Come Outside.” It’s definitely a strong opening for the record. It’s full of ethereal guitar riffs that were made popular by U2, and the song even features some sensitive Bono-ish vocals. Still, the band does something extremely uncharacteristic of a U2 song-they speed up the tempo with a tambourine and some power chords while the group yells the words, “Everybody, come outside!”

If U2 had the energy, brightness or pop sensibilities of that song, I would probably listen to them more often.

What really bogs down an otherwise addictive sunny pop record are the lyrics. Perhaps it’s nit-picky of me, but I really got hung up on the cliches and abstractions in the lyrics. There are lines where vocalists Joey Cook and Isaac Karns sing about dreams, lying awake, life and love. While it isn’t a sin to be introspective, songs about feelings and heartache are traditionally very hit-or-miss with me.

Admittedly, some of my favorite songs lately have been about very concrete things-actual people, events and really inane facts put to beautiful music. Perhaps it’s my current bias that’s affecting my opinion of Pomegranates’ use of feelings and ideas in their lyrics instead of presidents or locations.

There are a couple of really gorgeous moments on Everybody, Come Outside!. The first is “Sail Away With Me,” a gentle, acoustic waltz by the sea (it has to be by the sea-there are seagulls squawking in the background). It’s very reminiscent of a song by Beirut.

Later in the album, just as I was ready to write it off as forgettable and repetitive, the under two-minute “384 BC” came on. The song’s lyrics imply an odd science-fiction reality and the guitar chords are extremely simple. What makes the song, however, is the sound of rainfall in the background. It’s a beautiful little gem that could have been potentially swallowed up by an otherwise mediocre string of songs.

Although there are certainly a couple of duds on the album, there is also a wealth of upbeat numbers that cement their place in the world of indie-pop. “Tesserect” is infectiously happy. It’s very close to Voxtrot’s sunny vocals and guitars inside an echo chamber.

A couple of songs start out on an excellent note, but just sort of fall flat. “Svaatsi Uutsi” opens with hand claps, guitars and a driving beat, but the vocals and instrumentals throughout the rest of the song aren’t compelling at all.

It also strikes me that they seem to have a hard time ending songs, opting to just stop abruptly. Sometimes, that can work for a good, halting effect, but on this album, it just feels incomplete.

The album ends with “I Feel Like I’m a Million Years Old,” a 13-minute song that takes excellent advantage of a gentle acoustic guitar, some amazing unison vocals from Cook and Karns and fantastic ambient sounds.

It’s wonderful that they ended the album on such a positive note. It isn’t often that I’m entranced by an ambient song that lasts for more than six minutes. Somehow, after a couple of questionable and forgettable songs, they did an amazing job with the ending of the album.

Everybody, Come Outside! has no clear voice, for sure. Where they succeed, however, is in making the good songs memorable and addictive while the mediocre songs fall into obscurity.