California dreamers the Botticellis derive their name from a surfing term (“little barrel”), but Old Home Movies isn’t just a sunny romp through the local beach. Sure, the album has a summery mood, awash in lush hooks, but it’s also meditative and even a little forlorn at times. The band name-checks the Beach Boys and crime writer Raymond Chandler, and manages to combine the two elements in a successful, if uneven, mixture.
The title track and album opener is a delight, with excited drumming and singer Alexi Glickman’s romantic lilt reaching a pop climax. Glickman has a gift for conveying emotion without slipping into melodrama – although his lyrics are earnest, they’re sung with a sincerity that makes the listener more likely to swoon than smirk. “When I Call” is more introspective, with breathy vocalizing, but punchy percussion and guitar flares pick things up. “The Reviewer” is another success, as the band trades more refined orchestral pop for a distorted, anthemic yelper.
Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. When the tempo slackens, the energy level inevitably drops, and the second half of Old Home Movies has proportionally more slow burners. “Flashlight” is as dreamy as the title implies, all acoustic strumming and delicate drumming from Jason Quever of the woozy dream pop group Papercuts. Its neighbors are similarly subdued, as Glickman’s former optimism shows signs of disillusionment. Old Home Movies’ major flaw is the disparity between the giddy first half and the latter half, which contains moments that come dangerously close to snoozy. These slower numbers just aren’t as exhilarating.
Still, the Boticellis prove themselves as pop sophisticates, taking a multi-faceted approach towards achieving that perfect hook. While the brighter, shinier songs have an advantage when it come to grabbing ears, it’s the band’s attention to detail that makes Old Home Movies refreshing, even on repeated listen.