Thriving Ivory: Thriving Ivory 

Thriving Ivory's eponymous album is their debut with a label, but it's a follow-up to a self-released album of the same name and features 11 out of 12 of the same songs. After listening thoroughly to their Wind-Up Records-sponsored debut, I wish I could listen to the first one, which was recorded in guitarist Drew Cribley's parents' basement. The new album is razor precise and over-produced. You can't spit without hitting a wall of sound. The style is certainly epic, if somewhat formulaic (the songs sound like they followed the recipe for national radio play down to the teaspoon) but one slam-dramatic song after another left me numb. The impact was reduced after each song I listened to had a similar hook, rise, fall and resolution.

Melodically and lyrically, I have no complaints. The melodies are easy to sing along with. The lyrics are catchy but thoughtful. Metaphorical references to runaways, aliens, pretty girls and cowboys carve the lion's share of their audience down to females, ages 14 to 24, but other demographics will relate and latch on to songs like "Angels on the Moon" and "Hey Lady."

In fact, those are the only two songs that I felt were delivered in a special way. "Angels on the Moon," in spite of some lines that look horribly cliche on paper—"Do you know that everyday's the first of the rest of your life?" —was saved by moments where lovely lyrics laid out perfectly on the sonic landscape and gave me chills: "You can tell me all your thoughts about the stars that fill polluted skies." "Hey Lady" has a wrenching vulnerability to it that has scored it a place on my top 100 playlist.

Lead singer Clayton Stroope has devastating vocals. His falsetto range scrapes the ceiling and is showcased to its best advantage in "Alien." He recalls the rock operatic style of James Walsh but with a little more vocal grind and a little less expressive control.

In the end, they're a talented band, but the production style is too pop and the production range is one-note. If that's the note they were going for, then shoot an actress and call it an accident, Phil Spector, because they succeeded. This does not feel like a complete album, however, but rather one element of what an album needs cut-and-pasted onto 12 tracks.

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