Let us flashback three years, to a simpler time. It was then that three-piece girl group, The Like, was spending its nights filling opening-act slots at small L.A. clubs and hipster house parties. Back then, the band felt like soft rock at its softest. Airy melodies, dreamy lyrics and guitar work that seemed to involve more full-body swaying than actual strumming became definitive of the little band that seemed destined to make the daintiest of splashes in the music world. The Like wasn’t trying to fool us into thinking they were doing something new. They remain essentially a prettier version of Rilo Kiley, sans Jenny Lewis’ poignant, stream-of-consciousness lyricism. Still, for those of us interested enough, collecting the band’s sporadically released EPs became an enjoyable hobby – a sort of quiet lull before the media storm that would undoubtedly accompany the release of The Like’s first full-length.
All of which brings us to today. With the completion of Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?, the girls have found themselves gracing the pages of Vanity Fair and name-dropping celebrities like Sophia Coppola and Jason Schwartzman haphazardly into their liner notes. Still, behind the glare of fame’s bright lights, Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking? stands on its own as a respectable effort.
The ladies have borrowed and reworked previously released ditties “(So I’ll Sit Here) Waiting” and “Falling Away” with fancier equipment and tighter arrangements. Meanwhile, new selections seem to simultaneously represent what the band once was and what producer Wendy Melvoin hopes for them to become. Z. Berg’s vocals are no longer as breezy as they once were, instead fluctuating back and forth between an angst filled angst-filled whine and sultry moan. “Too Late” starts off quietly enough, but then delves into a world of crunching guitars that relent only to allow for Berg’s hiccupped refrain. Oftentimes it is Tennessee Thomas’ sloppy, incessant drumming that stands out against the rest of the album’s instrumentation. On tracks such as “Under The Paving Stones” and the opening track, “June Gloom,” Thomas’ pounding sounds are reminiscent of a controlled Meg White, hammering out punchy beats that perfectly juxtapose Berg’s dreamy alto.
The fallback of Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking? is simply that it sounds just a bit too contrived. For a band that once prided themselves on sounding like a troupe of “lo-fi” feminine garage rockers, the production values and melodies come out sounding just this side of overworked. The songwriting remains as lovely as ever, hinting at the potential that The Like have to redeem themselves next time around.
[When it comes to the law, Aly Comingore is judge, jury and executioner.]