Arrivals & Departures
The Icicles

by Jason Hoffman

      The Icicles initially appealed to me because they are from nearby Grand Rapids, Michigan and dress alike in retro 1960s flowery outfits, confessing that there seamstress is in their midst. They apparently had a song of theirs used in a Motorola commercial, and their single, “La Ti Da,” taken from their new album, is infectiously catchy with a clean 60s pop sound and female vocals similar to Mary Lorson of Madder Rose.

      When Arrivals & Departures arrived I eagerly gave it a quick listen, and my initial enthusiasm waned. While I’m far from goth, after even a few songs the ultra-sunny melodies and cheery instrumentation started to grate on me. The Icicles obviously are not fans of minor chords or building tension through song development. Once a song starts there’s little derivation in tone or tempo. In fact, most of the songs on the album sound similar to one another, similar to pre-Pet Sounds Beach Boys. But perhaps it’s unfair to expect anything more than simple, breezy retro pop from a band that makes no pretense to offer nothing more than advertised.

      So what do you get with the music? Straight and simple pop music with hearty doses of 60s girl bands (and indeed, only the drummer harbors XY chromosomes), clean and clear female vocals in the vein of Belinda Carlisle or Lorson with a healthy dose of gentle two-part harmonies and uncomplicated song structures. Straightforward bass, a barely perceptible wash of guitar chords in the background and a rich pitter-patter of drums make up the rhythm section. Most of the album is stolen by contrary melodies by the nostalgic organ tones, a definite strong point that will stick in your head as much as the vocal lines.

      The lyrics appear to have been lifted from a tweens diary: “I think I’m crazy about you / There’s nothing that I can do / ‘Cause I’m so crazy about you” (“Crazy”) or “Somewhere between pleasure and pain / Awaits a shelter from this toxic rain” (“Somewhere”). Innocently charming. Hitting a personal nerve is “Snowbird,” a lament for those of us in the northern states with lines such as “Another week of inclement weather,” “Been sixteen days without even a ray of sun” and “Since we’re in Michigan / Summer may never begin.” My Southern-Indiana-born wife couldn’t agree more!

      Arrivals & Departures is chock full of sunny, warm melodies that try hard to please. This is a squeaky clean album that can be shared between grandparents and grandchildren, hippies and hipsters. It’s difficult not to fall under the spell of The Icicles and smile along with their wintry antidote. Unfortunately, like real icicles, there isn’t much substance to support repeat listens, and eventually the album melts away.

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