Album Reviews

The Flat Five

The Flat Five

Artist:     The Flat Five

Album:     It’s a World of Love and Hope

Label:     Bloodshot Records

Release Date:     10/14/2016


Gleefully out of step with what’s trendy or fashionable, the Flat Five are like Baked Alaska or Crab Louie, or any of the other iconic dishes vanishing from today’s restaurant menus. The recipes employed on the utterly charming It’s a World of Love and Hope are indeed timeless.

A dying breed, this quintet of well-known Chicago pop vocal confectioners – Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, Kelly Hogan, Casey McDonough and Alex Hall – smartly craft blissful, immaculate harmonies and soft, light instrumentation perfectly tailored for the unassuming, yet slightly eccentric, songs of Chris Ligon, Scott’s brother. All sweetness and innocence on the surface, there is a mischievous twinkle in the eye of their lighthearted, and surprisingly diverse, debut LP, as goofy, subtle humor abounds. Take “Blue Kazoo,” for example – an otherwise stylish number interrupted by actual sad kazoo bleating. Aglow with vintage country-pop yearning, light horns and tender, romantic crooning reminiscent of Patsy Cline, “Birmingham” gently sways, expressing regret over hitting a former boyfriend’s mother, even though “she had it coming all the way.”

Elsewhere, “This is Your Night” opens into a space-age bachelor pad of sophisticated ‘60s jazz-pop and advises getting a “great big bag of dope” to chase away the blahs, while the jumpy, infectious boogie-woogie of “Buglight” – with its sly sexual innuendo – swings like a mashup of the Andrews Sisters and the Mills Brothers. Dazed by Donovan’s mellow psychedelia, “I Could Fall in Love with You” is as delightfully sunny as “Florida,” which daydreams of warm weather and oceans and the winsome pop artistry of the Beach Boys.

Absolutely striking, their vocal arrangements range from sleek and tight, to breezy and unaffected. And while their fondness for the sounds of the past is evident, the Flat Five aren’t interested in making antique replicas of old standards – the lush beauty and indie-rock moodiness of “Bluebirds of Michigan” exhibits a strong contemporary feel. What a beautiful World this can be.

-Peter Lindblad


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