The Soft Pack’s Strapped is a curiously unadventurous record, considering it was two years in the making. That’s not to say it’s a lousy record. It’s just that, despite the addition of synthy bloops and the occasional blurt of a horn, the tracks on Strapped aren’t much of a departure from the clipped, straightforward pop-rock of their 2010 self-titled debut.
The selection of the cheesily New Wave “Bobby Brown” as a lead single, with its children’s book lyrics and goofily plinking synths, is especially puzzling. Could it be a sign of the electro-drenched times we live in? In any case, there are a number of stronger tracks here, like the driving pop/surf-rock of album opener “Saratoga,” or “Second Look,” which finds The Soft Pack sounding like an up-tempo Real Estate.
The Soft Pack are most pleasing when they’re rocking out, and sadly, much of Strapped’s midsection is dedicated to mid-tempo numbers like the ’50s rock and roll sway of “Everything I Know.” The tracks are listenable and, mercifully, don’t drag on a second longer than they should, but the tension between singer Matt Lamkin’s deliciously blasé inflection and the driving beat of more up-tempo songs is missed.
Strapped isn’t groundbreaking, especially by the standards The Soft Pack have set for themselves. But the sweet spots here are fine moments of fuzzy guitar bliss. You could do worse than to soundtrack these waning early fall days with The Soft Pack’s warm, brooding pop-rock.