Mêlée - Devils & Angels.
Orange County quartet Mêlée have built a reputation over the last few years for making soaring, piano-based pop songs. They effortlessly continue this tradition on their major-label debut, Devils & Angels.
The album starts with "Built To Last," a radio-ready single that feels a little too slow to be the album's starting point, but is nonetheless beautiful. Chris Cron's vocals are clean and pitch-perfect, and the piano takes center stage. This is nice because, more often than you'd think, piano parts tend to get lost in the mix to the other instruments. However, producer Howard Benson takes care to not let that happen.
Before you think that maybe Mêlée only writes midtempo crooners, take a listen to "Frequently Baby (She's A Teenage Maniac)" If that's not the catchiest, most upbeat song you've ever heard in your life, I don't know what to tell you. It's energetic and fun without going overboard - it still sounds clearly like Mêlée.
Then we return to the slower side of music with "For A Lifetime," which is very reminiscent of their previous album, Everyday Behavior. It's great to see that Mêlée can keep their established style while finding a way to make their songs bigger and more epic. I can see this particular song being much more rock when played live.
Throughout the album, the lyrics cover a broad range of subjects, from the cliche ex-girlfriends ("Drive Away") to schizophrenia ("Imitation"). All these topics are covered effortlessly and still kept accessible.
"Can't Hold On" is a breathtaking ballad, possibly one of the most intimate songs Mêlée has ever written. It could easily find its way onto soft rock stations across the country.
"Biggest Mistake" is another crowd-pleaser in the vein of "Frequently Baby," and it even name drops Mitch Ryder's "Devil In A Blue Dress." How could you not love that?
The bonus track, "You Make My Dreams" is a Hall & Oates cover. It may be the scene thing to like Hall & Oates, but clearly Mêlée is doing this cover out of pure love for the duo. It's a perfect album closer.
Mêlée has been able to mature their sound just enough to make them viable to the mainstream (not that they didn't always have that potential), while still holding onto everything that makes them inherently who they are. It's nice to see a band grow like this without completely losing their heart along the way.
Standout Tracks: Frequently Baby (She's A Teenage Maniac), Drive Away, Can't Hold On.