“Try This” – The Ampersands
Our week of incisive songs (all under 3:35) wraps up with this buzzy, stompy bit of off-kilter indie pop. The sing-songy, Nintendo-y keyboard riff that opens things up is no mistake—it is based, says the group, on a mis-memory of an old video game musical theme (Munchlax’s Berry Bonanza, if you must know, which is a mini-game within the Pokemon universe). And the song indeed seems at one level to be about playing video games. The processed vocals add a Game Boy-like ambiance to be sure. But there is a larger point as well, having to do not only with the repeated chorus (“Why don’t you try this or you’ll never know”) but with the key lyrical line—which the band uses as their album title—“This is your adventure too.” We must stay open-minded, and present, and perhaps, somehow, even video games can help us get there. Or, also, not.
Meanwhile, the music has a smartly-built air about it, not to mention a sneaky undercurrent of Fountains of Wayne-like power pop. (Listen to the transition from the first to the second line—from “…observing the maze” to “Keep a close eye…”; that’s a lovely, FOW-like progression.) Funny thing about the Fountains—they’re still out there making good records, but they’ve also been around long enough to be a foundational band for a new generation of indie rockers. I don’t know if that’s the case here but I’ve been hearing their influence in a few places recently so I’m floating it as a theory.
The Ampersands (clever name for a twosome, no?) are multi-instrumentalist Aaron McQuade and guitarist Jim Pace. Both sing and write the songs. They have employed some “satellite members” both in the studio and in live performance, including vocalist Evie Nagy, whom you hear here in the chorus, but the band is officially just the two of them. Aaron is based in NYC, Jim in Providence, where they originally started. This Is Your Adventure Too is the band’s second album, and is slated for release at the end of October. Do yourself a favor and check out the album’s web site, where you can not only hear the whole thing, but get a lot of engaging, liner-note-like information and graphics.