There’s a bias among many that for something to be artistic, it has to be dark and moody. Poetry is only high art, they reason, if it dwells on the negative aspects of the human experience. For that reason, those who focus on positive vibes are often under appreciated. It is exactly in that positivity, however, that Brett Dennen thrives. Since his 2004 debut, Dennen has made a living out of producing irresistibly catchy pop music. His fourth album, Loverboy, follows in that tradition.
Bouncy rhythms, upbeat acoustic strumming and sunny choruses comprise most of the album’s 13 tracks. The lyrics, like the tone, convey a sense of optimism, even in the darkest moments. Though at its worst – like the repeating of “that’s my dog” in “Comeback Kid” – it sounds saccharine, most of the time the positive vibe works. In “Only Rain,” a slow finger-picked ballad, Dennen tells a lover “you can tell me I’m not the one; I know that the sun is shining somewhere.” Even in death, Dennen finds a silver lining. In “Dancing at a Funeral,” he remarks that “it takes a death like this to bring us together.”
A few moments in Loverboy stray from Dennen’s sugar-pop formula. “Frozen in Slow Motion,” a slow, string-backed crooner, is a counterpoint to the funk grooves of “Queen of the Westside.” Some will find Dennen’s positive pop off-putting, but for those who aren’t too cynical for some happy sing-alongs, Loverboy hits the right spot.