The Belt

In The Valley Below

Capitol Records, 2014

http://inthevalleybelow.com

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/25/2014

From the look of this Los Angeles-based duo, who dress as if they are some sort of Victorian peasant wannabies, it would only seem befitting to assume that In The Valley Below (ITVB) is some Americana roots act. This assumption, however, couldn’t be more mistaken.

There is nothing dated or unfashionable about ITVB’s style of slick indie pop music, which would fit only too easily in any pop music radio playlist. As a matter of fact, this debut record by the band is released under the Goliath known as Capitol Records as opposed to some sad little indie label. And the band has even attracted the attention of one Mr. David Letterman. So minus the posh wardrobe, it suffices to say that ITVB are minor pop stars. The sartorial choice might be the only quirkiness left in the duo’s otherwise almost-perfect world.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Inhabiting this world is the duo’s music, which sounds almost perfect as well, but it lacks any sort of oddity, good or bad. The music is like a person dressed in a suit, looking sharp, but not really causing any heads to turn. Take the breakthrough single “Peaches,” for instance. It doesn’t have the catchy magnetism of a pop number. It has a lovely tune, a simple chorus, and sharp production, but doesn’t really scream for attention.

But “Peaches” is probably amongst the weaker cuts on The Belt. Tracks like the perky “Neverminders,” the incredibly addictive “Stand Up,” and the soul-stirring “Dove Season” are the kind of more assertive pop songs that this album should have more of. At the other end of the spectrum, the album also gets pretty interesting and really good during the slower numbers like “Searching For A Devil,” “Take Me Back,” and “Hymnal.” Also, when the duo makes sure to not understate their rock roots, they create some of the album’s best moments, like the guitar pieces on “Searching For A Devil,” “Hymnal,” “Stand Up,” and “Dove Season.”

The Belt might not be mindblowing record, but it is good enough that it doesn’t feel undeserved that ITVB got a break.

Rating: B-

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