The Polyphonic Spree will challenge any cynic. Beyond showcasing a loud, unrestrained brand of pop music that forcefully attempts to lift your spirits, the band is exceedingly strange. Composed of 22 members whose attire isn’t exactly subtle, The Polyphonic Spree does everything with its heart on its sleeve. Led by Tim DeLaughter, the Dallas outfit is resurfacing for the first time in six years with Yes, It’s True, an album full of pent-up fervor and wild emotion. With energy as the band’s main calling card, the album can feel overwhelming and a bit too large in places, but its successes outweigh its shortcomings.
The album opens with “You Don’t Know Me,” which is undoubtedly one of the catchiest pop songs of the year. It’s cheery and bubbly, yet still has a bit of an edge to it. From the get-go, DeLaughter and Co. throw just about every at the listener. There’s maudlin lyrics, horns, chanting, and roaring guitars. If it were a minute longer, the song may have been too much to handle; yet, as a fun three-minute palate-cleanser, “You Don’t Know Me” works. “Popular Design” is the most unabashedly poppy song here, occasionally verging on saccharine. The chorus’s refrain (“You know that I know you’re popular by design/You know that I know you’re wonderful in the light”) wears thin by the song’s end, even if DeLaughter’s more controlled vocals punctuate the refrains. That isn’t the only instance of The Polyphonic Spree taking things just a little too far. On the largely pretty “You’re Golden,” some buzzword-heavy lyricism tries to be a bit too clever, with DeLaughter crooning that “It’s not your phone with an I/ It’s not your Facebook likes/ It’s not your Instagram pride” that “steals his heart.” As goofy as that lyric sounds now, it’ll only sound goofier twenty years from now.
It’s hard to resist some of what the band does later in the album, though. “Heart Talk” is the standout of the record, proving DeLaughter’s chops as a really strong vocalist. Furthermore, the choral backing is used to great effect here, giving the song texture and depth. “Raise Your Head” has all the bombast and excitement of a Sufjan Stevens song, and “Carefully Try” is gorgeously orchestrated. “What Would You Do?” is propelled by huge synth and an intriguing vocal back-and-forth that stands out as the most life-affirming track on the record. Although the chorus is used effectively in many spots, it can make the songs feel somewhat interchangeable. Yet such song constructions are usually so complex and lush, that that isn’t much of a problem. On the whole, “Yes, It’s True” is a triumphant return for one of the true originals in indie pop music.