In an era where spectacle rules, a low-key band like New York's Ivy is refreshing. The three-piece — which features Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger — achieves the musical equivalent of an ice-cold glass of water on a hot day with their latest release, All Hours. The songs are reminiscent of Air and Charlotte Gainsbourg — sultry and sophisticated, minimal yet still complex. It is electronica-tinged indie pop enjoyed best on rainy days, melancholy with a hint of the bittersweetness.
On their first album in five years, "Suspicious" stands out most, opening with a looped and synthesized glockenspiel that rides with handclaps and Dominique Durand's alluring voice into a toe-tapping hook. Like the rest of All Hours — and, really, the rest of the band's oeuvre through the years — it is a completely non-threatening cut and so relaxed as to almost fade into the background. Another stellar number is the peppy "You Make It So Hard," which calls to mind 1960's French pop with its acoustic guitar, Durand's warm vocals, quick tempo and perfect allotment of Moog. "She Really Got To You," the other upbeat tune on After Hours, has a sonic signature that takes after twee group Pipas. Both have simple lo-fi sonics, but where Pipas stays fresh and innovative, on this track, Ivy wearies the listener with replaceable, Muzak-style indie pop that comes off as competent yet bland.
This seems to be the band's greatest weakness. Despite boasting the talents of Schlesinger — one of the most consistently innovative musicians in mainstream pop — the music sometimes falls flat, and at times, After Hours hits a note so subdued as to be unforgettable. Sometimes it's because the music is so adroitly chilled-out, and othertimes, it's just plain dull.
The band is precariously perched on a tightrope with All Hours. The album teeters between being impressively and frustratingly simple, though despite Ivy's lack of risk-taking, there's something to be said for their subtlety.
Out September 20 on Nettwerk Records.