Make no mistake—this is, without a doubt, Jim McTurnan’s project, even if he does have a backing band helping him out with it. After the demise of his previous indie-pop group, Cat-A-Tac, McTurnan brought together a group of stellar Denver musicians to create the Kids That Killed The Man. The group’s roster is impressive: Bassist Josh Wambeke also plays in the space-rock group Fell, and drummer John Fate made extensive rounds in the Denver hardcore scene before joining the Kids. The group rose rapidly to national attention after playing several coveted festival gigs in 2009 (including an appearance at the CMJ Music Marathon), supporting acts like Surfer Blood and Art Brut, and then promptly fell off the face of the planet while recording its first album.

Now the band is back with the full-length album Joie De Vivre, which listeners may download for free at McTurnan’s website. Like Cat-A-Tac before it, the Kids That Killed The Man is a project inspired by classic rock-’n’-roll sounds, although McTurnan now channels pop-rock in its more sunny, effervescent varieties to craft his songs.

Unapologetically upbeat, Joie De Vivre features vast, expansive vocal harmonies and interlocking guitar rhythms that pull from punk and garage rock, but it manages to keep one foot firmly entrenched in pop at all times. Some of the songs also feature additions like string quartets and gospel-inspired synthesizer chords. Though one could easily imagine these tunes played in a red convertible on the beach in 1960, the music is also experimental enough to feel modern.

The Kids literally demands optimism, with song titles like “This Will All Work Out,” “Don’t Count Me Out” and “Give Up Suffering.” Even the guise of minor keys and youthful angst isn’t enough to bring the band members down permanently. “I feel like making a scene/Put on some fancy clothes/Go dancing, rock ‘n’ roll/Welcome to life,” McTurnan sings in “Tonight,” imploring his audience to keep going despite all of life’s hardships. If you need a pick-me-up, The Kids That Killed The Man will be your cheerleader.

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