Little Joy

    {grate 2.5}

    Two scruffy guys in Ray-Bans and their cute female counterpart record a debut that sounds imported from an Alfonso Cuaron movie, rife with homoerotic binge drinking. Unfortunately, Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti, Los Hermanos singer/guitarist Rodrigo Amarante and his girlfriend Binki Shapiro are not half as exciting. The trio that is Little Joy replaces their former intense sensuality with chilled-out pool-party tunes — great as background noise but no deeper than the shallow end.

    Little Joy begins with a pair of perfect margaritas: “The Next Time Around” and “Brand New Start” personify beach-chic with lazy vocals, surf-twang guitars and simple tin-pot drumming. But the album loses focus fast, distracted into a string of identical sleepy guitars repeatedly reworked into the same tasteless potato-salad songs. This random scattering of potholes between head-bopping tracks like “Keep Me In Mind” makes for an awkwardly stilted, uneven pace — enough to give even the most dedicated fans a little bout of seasickness.

    Occasionally, a little focus and practice shine through: “No One’s Better Sake” picks up the party with stop-and-go strumming and intentionally random piano chords that trimly avoid discordance. Country-vocal sensibilities hung on the galloping guitars of “How To Hang A Warhol” are also refreshingly precise.

    Due to the massive audience behind their main sheen, it’s safe to assume that Little Joy will be instant indie success — atmospheric, anxiously-in-love Los Hermanos delivered in slurred-sexy Strokes lyrics and bathed in beach party vibes from an LA recording studio — but inconsistent haste threaten disaster.

    Little Joy will play live at the House of Blues, San Diego on Dec. 5.

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