For 15 years, Fountains of Wayne have been rock's sharpest storytellers, chronicling the dreams and setbacks of middle-class types with heartbreaking precision and crunchy guitar hooks. Their fifth LP is rootsier than usual, but the characters are as vivid as ever. There's the boozer looking for love on an Amtrak ("Acela"); the woman reliving teenage nightmares at her parents' country house ("The Summer Place"); the hapless hipster entrepreneurs in "Richie and Ruben." The songs are filled with jokes - but the punch lines often turn into epiphanies. And FoW nail the boredom of the touring life: "In between the stops at the Cracker Barrel/And 40 movies with Will Ferrell/I need some way to occupy my time."
Listen to "Richie and Ruben":