The latest piano-poppers hoping to make it big are Las Vegas, NV’s Avalon Landing, a quartet of fresh-faced Yankee transplants with a keen ear for melody and a keener ear for radio hooks. The album opens with the earnest, amiable and freewheeling “About Face,” a surging and layered effort that falls somewhere between Rookie of the Year and My Favorite Highway. The breathy “No Apology,” is a ringing, rousing and reedy rocker with armfuls of heartache and plenty of charm. Not content to dip into filler, the quartet comes out barreling with the cheery singalong “The Cure,” and the swelling ballad “Chemicals.”
On the latter, vocalist Mike Vargovich proves that he is not one to shy away from heart-sleeving or over-emoting and his croon is in fine form, if not a bit too saccharine. The disc’s first half concludes with the raw “My Mask,” and the big-hearted ballad “Belong.” While the former is an absolute throwaway, “Belong” visits many of the same tropes as “Chemicals” and proves that when it comes to balladry, Avalon Landing most certainly knows what they’re doing.
The heavy-handed back half is infectious but not without its flaws. The best parts include the dripping melancholia of “Feel,” the surging “Erie County Welcomes You Back” and the lush elegance of the falsetto-laden “Floorboards.” Where Reside falls apart is the young quartet’s insistence on tacking on far too many tracks. While “Rest in Peace” and “Ghost Town” are hip-shaking and smile-inducing they don’t such much different from the rockers on the first half.
On the quivering and anxious “Trembling Hands,” Avalon Landing make arguably their strongest statement on the disc’s back half. Whereas much of the disc is crammed with layers of pianos, guitars and celestial ambience, “Trembling Hands” is a chance to dial down and step inside themselves. That decision is a welcome one and is why Reside is worth the repeated listens. The near eight-minute closer “Escape Yourself” is aural dynamite but that it comes shortly after the six minute “Floorboards” is a bit puzzling.
Sequencing aside Reside has plenty that will appeal to those still waiting for a SoCo or Copeland reunion. That audience aside, there’s probably a host of WB-watching teen girls and AC radio programmers who will carve this stuff up. After all, Reside is supremely polished, radio-friendly and easy to digest. In an era when provocateurs are becoming the norm, a disc this simple and easy is far from a mistake in judgement.