Oh, Inverted World

Indie rock's obsession with the Beach Boys has yielded some lovely pop records in the past several years, but even the best (the Apples in Stereo's Fun Trick Noisemaker, the High Llamas' Gideon Gaye) have been a little over-reverent. Enter this Albuquerque, New Mexico, band, which manages to tip its hat to Brian Wilson while still sounding like the Shins. Their pop songs jangle without being too sunny; there's a sadness that lingers on the fringes of songs like "Caring Is Creepy," "The Past and Pending" and "Girl on the Wing," where spacey synth noises percolate amid strummy guitar parts and manicured vocal harmonies. Vocalist James Mercer's willowy croon sounds thin and dreamy, like a smoke ring floating around a melody. His lyrics have a way of giving psychedelic images a concrete beauty ("I'd-a danced like the king of the eyesores, and the rest of our lives woulda fared well"). The most affecting song is "New Slang," a shuffling folk ballad with a spaghetti-western feel and a somber melody that could have come off an Elliott Smith album. Clocking in at barely more than half an hour, these eleven songs whiz by in a gorgeous blur, over far too soon.