"Loose Change," with its soaring, sweet-release cries of "Why can't you say what you mean?" over Harmon's and bassist Tom Or's rumbling, tumbling rhythm, will surely connect with fans of the Shins, while the melancholic double-punch of "Wasted Time" and "Chasing a Ghost" bristle with guitar bluster worthy of Built to Spill. Mostly, though, the disc revels in the sweeping melodrama of young love with playful arrangements laden with tambourines, piano twinkles, and room-warming organ whirs.
"We were listening to Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited [Columbia, 1965] a lot at the time," Harmon explains of the homage, and the addition lends tremendous intimacy to the confident cover with which Chu frequently masks vulnerable confessions. "Patient Patient," for example a fetching doctor-prescribing-love metaphor sprung along by a boing-boing rhythm pairs soulful Rhodes with earnest pleas of "All it takes is a little commitment / I'm a patient patient." Then there's the elegantly understated "Crosseyed," a simple construction of strummed guitars and tambourine in which Chu ruefully observes that "our empty promises keep us from bearing our hearts" over the subtlest black-and-white-keyed sighs of agreement.
The kicker, of course, is being able to make all these admissions of weakness and fess-ups of lovesick anxiety connect with listeners and the Morning Benders have done exactly that, having amassed a devoted following in relatively little time. Mercifully, with so much else in the world constantly in flux, there's still comfort to be taken in tightly written, hook-loaded pop songs. And personally, I can think of few acts better prepared to provide the comforting than this outfit.
THE MORNING BENDERS
Tues/6, 7 p.m., free
2 Stockton, SF
Also May 9, 9 p.m., call for price
330 Ritch, SF