The Thrills are five 23-year-olds from Dublin, Ireland, though their sound is straight out of circa-'70s California. The group misled their parents and left home without a record deal, traveling to San Diego to get inspiration and define their sound. So Much for the City proudly displays the band's influences: most heavily the vocal gymnastics of the Beach Boys but also country rock à la New Riders of the Purple Sage and the guitar chops of Neil Young.
The album kicks off with a slow and deliberate piano hook and frontman Conor Deasy's haunting voice before heading into the four-part harmonies and sun-drenched aura of "Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far)." Deasy's harmonica and Daniel Ryan's banjo picking add to the old-time feel at the same time that modern sound effects and production detract from it, producing a song steeped in the past but updated by 30 years' worth of technology. "Big Sur" borrows elements from the theme song to the Monkees TV show and features more banjo, adding a twangin' subtext to a well-written pop dance tune. In fact, most of these songs are extremely well-written and well-arranged, instrumental elements fitting seamlessly with intricately harmonized passages and Deasy's lyrics. On select tracks, the distinct sound of the pedal steel can be heard, shifting the sound from the beach to the barnyard.
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So Much for the City is a beautiful album of California rock-pop and country western- infused stompers. The music of the Thrills is so obviously influenced that it is a testament to their creativity that their songs are still original works. Ballads such as "Just Traveling Through" create a mood of contemplation, and the upbeat tunes like "One Horse Town" ruminate on sunshine and waves and the feeling of the sand between your toes. As a number of other bands are revisiting their past for inspiration, it is nice to hear a group opt for a sound other than retro-electro or simple guitar-driven garage rock.