Pressed and Ironed
Crossword Smiles are Tom Curless and Chip Saam, pop-rock veterans of Michigan, their LP, Pressed and Ironed is a solid collection of tunes inspired by the US college radio scene of the 80s.
The songs almost place you in some smoky dive in their hometown, singing about and watching characters they know. Feet on the Ground sets out the power pop credentials of the pair, and This Little Town is the exemplar, written as a Go-Betweens style track, with a perfectly placed violin intro.
While some of the songs use relatively simplistic imagery they are saved by the character driven specifics, for instance October Leaves may use denuded trees as an obvious metaphor for melancholy but the detail of "your cable knitted sweater, your breath it turns to mist", as he describes a drive they took, brings it to life.
The album often brings Joe Jackson's earlier work to mind, and the influence of his Look Sharp may be referenced in the album's title and cover, showing the album itself being made presentable by ironing. Parallel Lines - the lead single - has a daring name for a pop-rock band to borrow - but eschews the obvious connotations by being a sweet, soulful song with a clear Steely Dan vibe and is a highlight.
Lotus is a Cars-influenced take on mysticism and transcendentalism, despite a driving riff it sounds more forced to me than the following Walk Softly, with its steel guitar and dynamic middle section offering variety.
Overall this is a pleasant collection of vibrant songs, with two or three clear highlights and a well developed atmosphere.