Sleeper Agent - Celebrasion
Record Label: Mom and Pop Music
Release Date: August 2, 2011
A sextet hailing from Bowling Green, Kentucky, Sleeper Agent released the solid Celebrasion in late summer of last year. The debut album finds the band (vocalist Alex Kandel, guitarist/vocalist Tony Smith, guitarist Josh Martin, bassist Lee Williams, drummer Justin Wilson, and keyboardist Scott Gardner) funneling a wide range of modern influences into their particular brand of edgy guitar pop. At their best, they could be described as a combination of a less bratty Be Your Own Pet and citymates Cage the Elephant.
Pulling from such a wide range of influences muddles things up bit, as the band seem to be suffering from an identity crisis at points along the course of the LP. The best tracks are the most straightforward pop songs, as whoever's doing the songwriting here has a great ear for hooks. Album highlights "Get Burned" and "Force a Smile" build around catchy-as-hell choruses, and are the first tracks to immediately grab the listener's attention. "Some White Monster", on the other hand, attempts to focus on some manufactured aggression, but mostly treads water for three and a half minutes. Even lead single "Get it Daddy" starts off as a fist-pumper, but takes a strange turn towards left field during the bridge before righting the ship and finishing strong.
The band's expanded palette doesn't always work against them. "That's My Baby" is a folksy duet, with Kandel and Smith coming off as an ultra-contemporary version of Johnny Cash and June Carter, complete with a lyrical nod to Broken Social Scene. "Love Blood" is driven by the rhythm section and channels the best moments of Cults self titled album. Closer "Far and Wide" lets Gardner earn his paycheck, and wouldn't sound out of place on an early Motion City Soundtrack release. The gang vocals that rise up every few songs bring to mind the cheery singalongs that make Los Campesinos! so revered in indie circles.
Most of the tracks on Celebrasion function as above-average singles, though the lack of continuity is hard to overcome in the end. It will be interesting to see how the band progresses in future, as they decide what path to follow from a songwriting perspective. For now, though, there are more than enough hooks on this album to warrant repeat listens, and pique interest as to what comes next.