I’m a little mystified by Modern Skirts, a quartet from Athens whose unique style of 60s-cum-00s indie-pop varies often enough on All of Us in Our Night to make me repeatedly check that I’m listening to the same album. There’s an underlying connection – the band is comfortable making pop music drawing from the light and playful pop of the 60s and 70s without sounding dated in the least. But each song has its own unique flare, and if the flow of the album is a bit jarring because of it, the end result is 12 very interesting tracks.
Throughout the album, you get Sloan-style pop songs with some creative twists and tweaks. Riding light guitar and keyboards over a strong rhythm section, the band proves its talent immediately. But some songs are light pop, some are moody keyboard-led pieces, and some are completely different altogether. Even singer Jay Gulley’s voice changes with the style, somehow.
The lightly quirky “Channel” opens the album on light acoustic guitar and a subtle “do do do” in the background. It’s a pleasant pop opener with a surprising about-face into the organ-led beauty of “Soft Pedals.” If you’re not won over by the Beach Boys-style opener, the light, pretty “Soft Pedals” may suck you in. Don’t get too comfortable, because the light beats and moody ambiance of “Chokehold” is more akin to Tindersticks than twee. Now back to the pop, with the Mike Mills’ (REM) produced “Radio Breaks,” which is catchy and strong and even brings in some horns.
I think I prefer the more mid-tempo numbers, like “Yugo,” which has a bit of a Lucksmiths’ style of guitar-pop and keyboard foundation. There’s more rock in the electric guitar-driven “Face Dawn” and a bit of jazzy pop in the more playful “Astronaut.” “Eveready” could easily draw comparisons to Cracker’s style of Americana rock, and an even more country-influenced “Motorcade,” the latter being perhaps the album’s most strikingly bland track. Things get back on track with the very strong and melancholy “Mrs.” And in case you got too comfortable, “Like Lunatics,” a synth-driven pop song with some of the album’s strongest vocals, closes things up.
So, if All of Us in Our Night is a bit schizophrenic, it’s hard to really complain. The songs are undeniably good. That they don’t really fit together, in my mind, is a mild complaint. I can put it on random and not get lost, at least. Already turning heads with tours with REM, Vampire Weekend, The National, and others – and drawing the attention of REM’s Mike Mills and Cracker’s David Lowry to help produce the album – this is a band on the rise.