“Ebullient” is a last-resort word. It shouldn’t be used nearly as often as it is—you don’t use a thermonuclear warhead to kill a cockroach (although actually a cockroach wouldn’t die from the radiation, but anyway). “Ebullient” should be used in special cases, when all other adjectives just don’t cut it, which is why I have to use it here. Because In Light, by Givers, with its cutesy, jerky take on indie pop, is the most ebullient record of 2011.
The five-member band from Lafayette, LA, exhibits a magnetic attraction to catchy songs, based in a bright, percussion-laden pop idiom that hat-tips zydeco and Afrobeat. Mission statement single “Up Up Up” flexes every muscle in the group’s arsenal—the interplay between dual vocalists Taylor Guarisco (dude singer, yelping voice) and Tiffany Lamson (lady singer, smoky voice), African-style guitar, swirling organ-like keyboards, polyrhythms all over the place, a nearly absurd hook—all catchy everything. None of it is anything revolutionary, but the individual and collective strengths make for a formidable summer track, an earworm that needs to be stored under Biosafety Level 4 conditions.
And In Light, while never really topping “Up, Up, Up,” certainly fleshes out Givers’ sound. Most importantly, it shows that Givers is anything but a one-song band. Highlights include the coda of “Meantime,” the oompah of “Ceiling Of Plankton” and “Atlantic,” a showcase for Lamson’s killer vocals. An obvious name-drop is Dirty Projectors, both in Givers’ musical style (Guarisco’s guitar lines in particular reference those of Dave Longstreth’s, and on some tracks Lamson is a dead-ringer for a throatier Angel Deradoorian) and history—Givers was brought on tour after a one-off in Lafayette opening for the influential art-rock group went really, really well.
You can’t really call In Light introspective; the songs here are mostly devoid of self-consciousness or self-doubt. Even the swooning torch song “Go Out At Night,” about as close to brooding as this album gets, empties into a sprightly guitar solo more than once. The lyrics throughout In Light play to the dynamic between the two vocalists—lots of doe-eyed references to light and eyes, addressed to “you,” the old standby of songwriting (although “Ceiling Of Plankton” compares love to being “warm, not too tight—just like my favorite sweater,” which is cute enough for me). There’s a positivity to this album that could grate on self-described “realists.” So for those looking for modernist complexity, steeped in tonal compromise—the musical equivalent of a Jonathan Franzen novel—Givers will disappoint. It’s a seriously cute band that writes seriously catchy love songs that you will probably seriously enjoy—if you’re all right with that ebullience thing.