Lifehouse: Smoke & Mirrors


RIYL: Goo Goo Dolls, The Fray, Matchbox Twenty

When Lifehouse released their edgy debut No Name Face in 2000, their music was leaning more toward alternative and cool – because of the songs and the way they recorded them, but also because of how radio, to some degree, still drove record sales. But as bands like Lifehouse, Matchbox Twenty, and Third Eye Blind keep aging, their music tends to organically soften. And as it does, they start to mesh on radio with artists such as, say, Edwin McCain or Huey Lewis. And while we all do age, there is something inherently disappointing in watching a band like Lifehouse start to listen too much to producers and radio programmers instead of making the cool music that they used to. Still, these guys can write hit songs in their sleep, and on Smoke & Mirrors, their fifth studio effort, Lifehouse has delivered yet another batch of ear candy that will have little girls swooning. For the rest of us, it’s a nice album, but nothing we haven’t heard before, from Lifehouse or any other bands in their alt/pop genre.

Songs like the upbeat “All In” and “Had Enough” are formulaic, but there are also some nice surprises. The first one is “Nerve Damage,” which is an edgy rocker that even has a bluesy guitar solo that is (gasp) almost 30 seconds long. Then there’s the best track of all, “From Where You Are,” a stunning acoustic ballad that shows singer Jason Wade hasn’t lost a single strand of vocal cord over the past decade. Someday Lifehouse may go back to having creative control. But even so, their music doesn’t exactly suck, and you can’t blame them for chasing a big paycheck. (Geffen 2010)

Lifehouse MySpace page

  

My Favorite Highway: How to Call a Bluff

Depending on how cynical you are, there are two ways you can look at My Favorite Highway: Either they’re a television music supervisor’s wet dream – and the latest withered apple to fall off the Something Corporate branch of the blink-182 family tree – or they’re every bit as earnest as they seem, and their full-length debut, How to Call a Bluff, is really just the front line in a new wave of bands whose members grew up listening to Third Eye Blind, Matchbox Twenty, and Everclear. Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that lead Highwayman David Cook is a songwriter with a gift for melody and his heart strapped firmly to his sleeve, and if that just happens to be exactly what it takes to get your music played in an episode of “The Hills,” that’s no reason to write the band off as a crass, watered-down facsimile of something that wasn’t all that great in the first place, is it? Well, again, that depends on your level of cynicism – but if you can bring yourself to listen to Bluff without hearing the strong echoes of the band’s influences, though, you’ll find it a veritable buffet of sweet, fizzy pop treats, all gleaming surfaces, sticky hooks, and giant choruses. If this Highway leads to less-traveled environs, some beautiful vistas could await. (Virgin 2009)

My Favorite Highway MySpace page

  

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