BY MARK JENKINS
Sample-based and hip-hop-inspired, the music on Javelin’s previous releases was structurally inventive, yet sometimes slight and often precious. Hi Beams, the Brooklyn-based duo’s second longplayer, doesn’t alter the group’s basic demeanor. The album is chirpy, playful and transitory, dispensing 10 songs in 31 minutes. But most of them really are songs this time, not cut-and-paste jams, which makes a difference.
The sonic bedrock is still made of layers of synthetic thuds and bleeps, but on top Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford have layered memorable tunes, multi-tracked harmonies and references to a half century of popular and semi-popular music. “City Pals” could be a synth-pop Abbey Road outtake, “The Stars” features a grand Spectorian counter-riff and “Airfield” is a tour of ’80s punk-goes-soul that ranges from ABC to Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. (The latter similarity is not too surprising, since Javelin’s earlier style strongly echoed Tom Tom Club’s.)
Van Buskirk and Langford are cousins who grew up together in Providence, and have retained something of their childish ways. They’ve worked “Frere Jacques” into live sets, while one of this album’s lesser numbers, “Nnormal,” [cq] borrows from “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” But such songs as “Light Out” show both mature technique and — in its series of rueful questions for people who worry that “all [their] moves were dated” — some grownup perspective.
DOWNLOAD: “City Pals,” “Airfield”