Let’s try to get past “Stacy’s Mom.” I know, I know, that’s the only song you really know from Fountains Of Wayne and it was a jam back in the day, but it would be such a shame for that song to be the defining moment for this band when they’ve released two quality records between 2003 and the present day. Actually, make that three, because Sky Full Of Holes contains some of the group’s best work to date. Though the lyrical content might not be for everyone, it’s right around what fans should expect, and the musicianship seems to be stepped up some from the previous album. If you’ve only heard their biggest single, give this a try. Hopefully you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised.
“The Summer Place” provides a perfect sample of what’s to come from the rest of the album, with its upbeat pace, over-the-top melodies, and quirky, story-based lyrics. The production is everything you could ever want for a pop-rock band, and is a huge part of what makes this album so enjoyable. I love the way the acoustic guitar sounds in this song, though the lead part leaves a little to be desired.
“Richie And Ruben” really makes it seem as though the lyrics are only there to allow for some vocal melodies alongside the instrumentation. They give the track a good feel, but they don’t really add anything meaningful and the musical parts are definitely a lot better in comparison, particularly the guitar solo and the brief pause near the end.
If you told me that “Acela” was a Beatles song, I would have no problem believing you. Chris Collingwood sounds quite a bit like John Lennon, especially with the “ooh-ooh” parts in the chorus, and the guitar parts are really well done, with a bouncy rhythm part and creative lead lines by Jody Porter thrown in throughout. The bridge features a nice vocal part before a great solo comes in. If there were any plans to make another Guitar Hero game, this song would be the perfect addition.
“Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The bridge features some of the best lyrics on Sky Full Of Holes, with talk of “a fear we are born with and never outgrow” and the line “and, what else, you can keep your American cash and smile.” The instrumentation sets it up perfectly, and it’s a really effective moment. Parts like this make me wish that the band took more time to make all of their lyrics as great, since they clearly have it in them.
“Action Hero” falls into the same sort of category as what I just finished complaining about. Although I really enjoy the concept behind this track, quite a few of the lyrics seem like the band just sat around trying to see how many times they could rhyme with the same sound. The instrumentation is a bit of a change from the previous few tracks, with a more restrained sound that leaves the vocals very clearly in the foreground until about three minutes in, when they harmonize and blend with the guitar parts to act almost like another instrument, creating a nice effect and helping to make me forget about the lackluster lyrics near the beginning of the song.
Though it has some nice vocal harmonies in the chorus and fun guitar work throughout, the quick “A Dip In The Ocean” is one of the tracks that is somewhat forgettable. When “Cold Comfort Flowers” comes on, it makes me think that the band’s sound works better at a slightly slower pace. Collingwood has a good voice, but it gets somewhat lost in a faster track, which is why I think “Cold Comfort Flowers” comes across much more effectively than “A Dip In The Ocean.” That said, these two songs make the album drag a little in the middle.
Drawing out some of the country elements that are heard in a few tracks on Traffic And Weather, “A Road Song” has a certain comforting feeling to it, despite the fact that the lyrics fall victim to the same problem as “Action Hero,” where I like the basic idea behind them but they’re a bit over-the-top and forced.
“Workingman’s Hands” is like a second take on the sound heard on “A Road Song,” with some country elements sneaking through in the guitar parts and lyrical focus. It has some of the same comfort from the previous track, but the bridge has lyrics that have given me chills about three quarters of the times I’ve heard them: “oh, you save your money for a hole in the ground, a black car, and a long wall of roses.” The combination of those words and the following piano part and guitar solo make for a really emotional moment. This is another of my favorites from Sky Full Of Holes.
Though “Hate To See You Like This” is the opposite of “A Dip In The Ocean,” it manages to be almost equally weak, dragging along until it gets to the slightly quicker bridge that brings the song’s pace up to a range that feels a lot more comfortable for the band. I appreciate the idea of variety, but “slow” doesn’t really suit their sound well.
“Radio Bar” has a sound that would have been more appropriate for cheering someone up, but the lyrics (predictably, about experiences at a radio bar) don’t really do much for me. The addition of horns adds another texture to the album, and the song’s not so bad if you aren’t paying close attention.
“Firelight Waltz” is another track that takes a bit of a slower pace, though it is much more dynamic than “Hate To See You Like This.” The lyrics on this song are another high point, in both the verses and at the end of the chorus. Overall, this is another of my favorite songs on the record, and it works really well near the end of the album.
The drums and bass parts throughout closer “Cemetery Guns” appropriately set the tone of the song to give the impression of a veteran’s or soldier’s funeral. The inclusion of strings on this song really rounds it out, and makes for a nice ending to the album.
All in all, Sky Full Of Holes is a really solid record, particularly if you’re already a fan. I personally love it, but I can definitely recognize its weaknesses and see how others might not enjoy it quite as much. It might not be one of the best records of 2011, but it’s still worth a few listens.