By Cody Mello-Klein
The brainchild of the Los Angeles musician and producer Rich Jacques, Right the Stars is a project that brings together various members of the L.A. musical community in order to create hook-laden indie pop tunes. It is in this regard that the project’s second release, the optimistic and chipper-titled Hello Yes OK, succeeds. Immediately, from the very first track “Best Days Of Our Lives,” it is very obvious that Jacques is great at crafting a pop tune with a great sing along hook. Accompanied by a gently-pulsing bass, choir-like, chopping guitars, bouncing drum beats and the occasional keyboard, the album exudes a happy-go-lucky nature and practically dares you not to smile or bob your head while listening to these tracks.
Unfortunately, Jacques and his various musical companions don’t push their musical ideas any further than the idea of the simple pop tune. In the end, the songs really just tend to blend together with hook after hook after hook hitting your eardrums like an overly excited, sugar-high fifth grader. The instrumentation, although well mixed and possessing a crisp, clean production (I challenge you not to tap your foot to the drums on “Best Days of Our Lives”), never really varies all that much, with each track having the same general sound and feel. The occasional inclusion of keyboard blips on tracks like “All I Ever Knew” and “Stay (Don’t Go Away)” is a welcome break from the instrumental monotony but I can’t help but feel as though this could have been explored more.
Despite this, there are a couple of tracks that stick out, namely “Together We’re Never Alone” and “All I Ever Knew.” “Together We’re Never Alone” is probably the most interesting track on the album, coming from a different place both temporally and lyrically. Whereas most tracks sport a clear 80’s influence (notably “My Melody” and “Computer Crimes”), “Together” finds inspiration in the music of the late 60’s Beatles with its Lennon-like vocal inflections and abstract lyrics (“It’s hard to believe but she swallowed the sea and then held her breath under the moon”). “All I Ever Knew” on the other hand separates itself in terms of its instrumentation, dominated by an almost disco-like rhythm section that recalls some Maroon 5 song.
If it seems as though I have been comparing Right the Stars sonically and lyrically to other groups it is because it is almost impossible not to. And this is perhaps my most major gripe with this album: Jacques and his collaborators wear their influences clearly on the sleeves however they never attempt to do anything unique with those musical ideas. Jacques’ vocals bring to mind Phoenix’s Thomas Mars, the instrumentation recalls Maroon 5 and Tears for Fears and the lyrics are typical lovey-dovey material. In fact, the track “Computer Crimes” is so similar to Vampire Weekend’s “White Sky” it’s appalling.
In the end, Right the Stars has made a tight, well produced, catchy pop record. It does not shatter any musical barriers or push music forward but it doesn’t try to either. Instead Jacques and co. are content with making you smile and bob your head, which is perhaps just what we need right now.