• Shore
  • The Shore (Maverick) 2004 

Well, why not an American Verve? While this Los Angeles quartet dispenses with the medicated sonic ether that made Urban Hymns so, err, addictive, replacing it with a wholesome power-pop sheen (think early Tom Petty), a little Telecaster twang and the bent chords of My Bloody Valentine, The Shore unmistakably recalls Richard Ashcroft’s old crew. The romantic lyrics and the trippy pastel artwork make the album’s polite psychedelic sensibility clear: “I’ve been losing these days, can’t feel you no more / I’ve been lost in a haze, got my head on the floor.” Singer/guitarist Ben Ashley’s strong, clear voice has a calm majesty, which provides a firm focus within the carefully modulated gauze of shimmering guitars and keyboards; his pleading, downcast songs all concern loss, specifically of people moving too far apart to remain a couple. While the songs are emotionally monochromatic, they neither succumb to self-pity nor wallow in despair. The melodies are handsome and memorable, and the transparently atmospheric production (with more guitar echo than any band since U2) delivers ample diversity, from delicate to surging, to keep the ten songs — including the string-laden “Hard Road,” the piano-based “Take What’s Mine” and the folky “Everything We Are” — winningly distinct from each other.

[Ira Robbins]