As a bed of acoustic guitar is lazily strummed below Charles Westmoreland's vocal gymnastics on "Driver," the opening track off Portland-based band The Kingdom's new LP, one may recall another NW purveyor of bliss-pop, The Shins. But it becomes clear early on that The Kingdom is more keen on injecting a bit of power and a sense of melodrama into its tunes, overlaying audio images of '80s rock on a milieu of '60s pop and '70s AM radio. Westmoreland's Steve Perry-meets-Jeff Mangum singing skitters all over the pensive, piano-driven "Polaris," but the band isn't content to let this tempered-down tone rule the show. Case in point is "Motorcading," a track that begins with a matching electric guitar/vocal melody, augmented by bombastic drums and a chugging bass line. For every moment of pop innovation The Kingdom offers such as the a cappella and drums arrangement on the closing track, "Pilot" they tend to rest a bit too heavily on power chord pounding and an overused string section, which feels slightly out of place at times. At 25 minutes, it's hard to accuse the band of overkill on the album, but there's an edge that's lacking from the band's competent but occasionally overwrought songwriting.
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