Everything in Between (Sub Pop)
The frazzled, fuzzy punk-pop that made No Age's first two albums so thrilling appears only briefly on the L.A. guitar-and-drums duo's new disc. Everything in Between is in almost every way a more refined effort than its predecessors, Weirdo Rippers, a 2007 collection of EPs and singles, and Nouns, the band's official full-length debut from 2008. The upgrade pays off in some substantial ways—Randy Randall, in particular, emerges here as a kind of guitar hero/producer in command of a dizzying spectrum of sounds. But the band's more studied approach feels, overall, like a step back instead of progress. The almost uniformly middling tempos here make the last third feel like a real drag; and for all the studio mastery, impressive sounds can't make up for the songs, which too often are either drifting and underdeveloped or generic beach rock of the Best Coast/Wavves/Surfer Blood sort that's been the indie soundtrack of summer 2010. There are traces of the band's former abandon on "Fever Dreaming," "Depletion," and "Shed and Transcend," and even some of the more restrained songs, like "Valley Hump Crash" and "Sorts," offer a fully formed and totally appealing pop classicism. Maybe that's something to look forward to.