A band’s sophomore album is what really tests their meddle, especially within the indie-pop genre, where hip new bands and fresh sounds seemingly pop up at every corner, only to quickly fizzle away into nothingness. See The Strokes, who revolutionized the power-pop genre and then couldn’t quite find a way to capture the magic of Is This It?, or Vampire Weekend, who released one of the most infectious debut albums of all time, but then quickly devolved into obnoxious sounds and stale melodies on their follow-up Contra.
Luckily, Army Navy, a little-known but critically well-received band from LA deftly avoid the dreaded sophomore slump with their second release The Last Place. Certainly, it helps that their first album wasn’t much more than a fun little pop record, but it was a good piece of easily-digestible indie music with a light tone that never overstayed its welcome.
The Last Place is darker than their self-titled debut, with lyrics that delve deeper into heartbreak and whiffed relationships but it still deals in the same simple and energetic hooks as their first. Many of the tracks are emotional mid-tempo numbers that add some rare piano into the mix to very nice effect. However, it’s the rip-roaring songs that fare the best: “Last Legs” opens the album marvellously with a sea-faring riff that just begs to be played loudly in a car with the windows rolled down, and others like “I Think It’s Going To Happen” and “A Circus” follow suit. These songs have a punk-y energy, sort of in the same vein as Tokyo Police Club, that really kicks the album into full gear whenever they show up. The record is also produced really well, with an organic sound that never gets in the way of the rawness of the instruments – indeed, with so many bands turning to keyboards and synths these days, it’s nice to get one that keeps itself relegated to some good old rock n’ roll instrumentation.
Overall, The Last Place should satisfy fans of Army Navy’s first record, and maybe gain some new ones on the way. Admittedly, it’s not a particularly unique or overwhelmingly fantastic release – not every song is a winner, and while it’s got some good hooks, none of the songs particularly stick with me. But it’s a fun, breezy, well-crafted indie-pop record, so if you’re into that sort of thing, you should be more than pleased with it.