Sky Full of Holes, All Hours

Fountains of Wayne and Ivy

Phases & Stages

Fountains of Wayne

Sky Full of Holes (Yep Roc)

Ivy

All Hours (Nettwerk)

If only Fountain of Wayne's overdue follow-up to 2007's Traffic and Weather were as strong as its first three bursts of distinctively seasonal East Coast pop. "The Summer Place" conjures a well-balanced mix of sun-warmed hooks and harrowing undertones in its depiction of rumpled old money on the way down, while "Richie and Ruben" nails the essence of hapless entrepreneurs who talk big games while crashing and burning one shoddy business scheme after another. "Acela" is a worthy contender for Amtrak's high-speed foray. After that, Sky Full of Holes comes unglued. "Action Hero" begins with what aging does to the male superego, but FOW duo Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger never tap the idea's full potential. The annoyingly self-referential "A Road Song" sounds like an over-woodshedded exercise that should've been put aside for another day. Would-be big finisher "Cemetery Guns" wells up at a military funeral next to a freeway, but the song ends before the sweep is complete. By contrast, Schlesinger's other band, Ivy, doesn't connect until the closer on All Hours. "The Conversation" pits Dominique Durand's icy Parisian vocals against a muted electro-pop arrangement in a manner that gives this attempted rescue from self-imposed isolation emotive weight. Unlike the trio's livelier breakthrough, 1997's Apartment Life, the rest of All Hours is functionally pleasant but largely unmemorable background music for restaurants with exposed ceiling beams.

(Both) **

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