Release Date: Jun 12, 2012
Record label: Yep Roc
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
With Safe Travels, Jukebox the Ghost has learned to let go completely. The New York-by-way-of-Philly trio has made a modest name for itself out of catchy, clever, girl-on-the-mind pop, but omnipresent pressure and tight control of their craft has poked some holes in their first two angsty, insightful albums. So they changed addresses, shifted focus and voila!—a third record founded on liberty, melody and fraternity.
Grief and hopelessness are viruses, slowly destroying our spiritual immune system in preparation for our grand shuffle off this mortal coil. Their sudden onset can be too much to handle, leading to illnesses like cynicism and despair. In the midst of a devastating viral outbreak (represented as breakups and the death of a parent and grandparent), Philadelphia power-pop trio Jukebox the Ghost recorded their third album, Safe Travels.
Safe Travels, an expertly crafted collection of radio-ready, melodious indie pop that combines the bright-eyed, shameless heart-thump of Fun. , the quirky genre-juggling of Foster the People, and the classic rock posturing of Ben Folds, is precious enough to weed out the cynics and stoic enough to earn their respect should they decide to ride the whole thing out. The third studio album from the New York (by way of Philly) trio of Ben Thornewill, Tommy Siegel, and Jesse Kristin, is a steadier and decidedly more confident outing than 2010’s spotty but likeable Everything Under the Sun, but it retains the latter's penchant for balancing big hooks with progressive rock structuring, and engaging melodies with clever lyrics.
Where do you go after you make an album that might be the clearest possible distillation of your band’s artistic mission statement? In 2010, Jukebox the Ghost released the near-sublime Everything Under the Sun, an insanely fun (no period needed) record that had co-frontmen Ben Thornewill (vocals, piano) and Tommy Siegel (vocals, guitar) firing on all cylinders. Their debut, Let Live and Let Ghosts, made it clear they were a good band capable of writing good songs; Everything Under the Sun made the case that Jukebox was a great band capable of writing great songs. But rather than sit on their laurels, Thornewill, Siegel, and drummer Jesse Kristin have moved irrevocably forward on Safe Travels, their latest album, with mixed success.
Even when he's trilling in his signature falsetto, Jukebox the Ghost frontman Ben Thornewill enunciates his lines with an exaggerated theatricality, and the band's pop hooks arc with bold, glossy grandeur. All of which means that listening to a song by the peppy piano-pop Brooklyn trio feels a little bit like stumbling unexpectedly into a Broadway musical (let's say Movin' Out; singer Ben Thornewill sings like a man who owns a Billy Joel record or two) at that precise moment when everyone breaks into song. If you're the sort of person who can suspend the necessary cynicism when this happens in the movies, then maybe you'll go for their brand of hyperactively hooky power-pop.
Jukebox the Ghost has been putting out quality albums for the past few years (see especially the pretty amazing Everything Under the Sun), and this one is no exception. But whereas in their last album, JTG was content to be a slightly amped-up Ben Folds (heavy on the keyboards, frenetic pace), here they stretch out a little more, adding more electronica to their beats, and sometimes even slowing things down a bit. There are definitely some songs here that aren’t your typical Ghost material.