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Album review: Army Navy, 'The Last Place'

Greg Kot

3:02 PM EDT, August 9, 2011

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3 stars (out of 4)

 

Former Ben Gibbard collaborator Justin Kennedy formed Army Navy in Los Angeles in 2004, and his melancholy jingle-jangle found favor in Hollywood movie soundtracks such as “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” and “Beastly,” if not commercial-radio play lists.

Army Navy’s second album, “The Last Place” (The Fever Zone), solidifies Kennedy’s credentials as a pop-rock aficionado who aspires to write chiming, guitar-stoked melodies in the mold of prime Badfinger, Teenage Fanclub and Shoes.

Kennedy specializes in bittersweet laments from the perspective of the jilted: Lines such as “Look what you done to me,” “I’ve been waiting here too long,” and “This was never meant to be this way” are sung with a deceptive boyishness, the barest hint of idealism lingering like a hangover amid the carnage. The stalkers in “A Circus” and “The Hunter” are a long way from the innocents of the bubblegum era. Besides, there’s no time for self-pity as the band digs into one spirited melody after another: the voice-guitar tag-teaming in “Last Legs,” the relatively concise bang-bang rhythms of “I Think It’s Gonna Happen,” the expansive ebb and flow of “Pastoral.”

greg@gregkot.com