Unlikely Friends, an indie rock supergroup of sorts comprising members of Math and Physics Club, BOAT, and Jigsaw Records, deliver fourteen upbeat songs on their latest full-length, Crooked Numbers. It’s been almost exactly three years to the day since the Seattle band released their premiere LP, Solid Gold Cowboys, and Crooked Numbers finds Unlikely Friends recapturing the energy and fun of their debut.
The record’s cover art, featuring what looks to be a baseball pitcher mid-windup, wasn’t chosen arbitrarily. Many of the album’s lyrics allude to sports, perhaps most obviously those on the first track, “Fifteen Rounds”, which, with its hard rock guitars and smash and bash drumming, starts things off in fine form. “All I wanted was a shot at the crown, everybody tries to beat you down, I’ve been hanging on the ropes for fifteen rounds,” frontman D. Crane sings during the song’s freewheeling, catchy chorus.
Unlikely Friends manage to keep Crooked Numbers entertaining from track-to-track without sacrificing their style. The occasional inclusion of a tambourine, analog synthesizer, glockenspiel, and even an odd sound clip dropped in every now and again provide a pinch of humor and help preserve the record’s freshness. There’s a distinct Beach Boys vibe throughout due in large part to D. Crane’s vocals, which are often reminiscent of a young Brian Wilson. In addition, the use of timpani on the acoustic “Hey Sunshine” as well as the gorgeous harmonizing on the brief “Kool-Aid Smell” have an unmistakable California surf feel.
Second half standouts on Crooked Numbers include: the rollicking, uptempo “Cut Loose”, the crisp, short “Solicitors”, and perhaps most notably “The Strangest Kind”, the record’s excellent final song, which cleverly manages to utilize all the band’s strengths, so much so that you’ll find yourself looking forward to replaying the album from the start before the track is even over. If you like your indie rock fun and unpretentious, look no further. Crooked Numbers is a homerun.