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Introductions for Day Action Band reduce its music into something that would seem largely unremarkable: DAB is brothers Matt and Nate O’Keefe, two 30-something professionals who’ve been toying under the name since 1991. They’ve got wives and kids and interests in the sort of pop music that predates their birth. Wives & Babies is their second self-recorded and self-released album in two years, and, as with debut Right on Dairyland, the brothers sing largely about long workdays and kids in car seats and finding happiness at home. Not groundbreaking, no?
And sure, Day Action Band’s records fall on the conservative end of the indie-pop spectrum, with orthodox textures that come precisely and carefully layered in a clean, Jim O’Rourke manner. The guitars are crisp, the keyboards are tame complements, and the vocals are largely earnest and untouched. But this is a large reason DAB’s music feels so good: On Wives & Babies, the O’Keefes underscore songs about living with sonics that have been lived in. The sounds have clear, sturdy frames and smart ornamentations, and the songs operate from the same concept: That is, the hooks are big and strong and broad, but the specificity of Day Action Band’s songwritingchestnut-headed kids, relationships with explicit beginnings, ex-girlfriends in Los Angelesis another level of bait for an audience already nodding along. These songs could be your life, you know, because they’re already someone else’s.
Wives & Babies is a fragmented, non-autobiographical song cycle about trying to keep marriages alive or get them started. At one point, Nate is stalking a lover, watching her have dinner with her parents and pal around with the neighbors; elsewhere, another character looks at the prettiest girls in town but ends the song at home, with the titular “prettiest girl that I know.” Wives & Babies is about losing naiveté or, better still, losing layers of innocence one day at a time and persevering in spite of pride. The band’s mechanicsnot innovative or out, just plain and prettygive such details the space they need to connect. And it works. Every song on Wives & Babiesfrom the sunny organ-girded trot of “At the End of Every Day” to the minor-key acoustic wink of “One More to Hold”lands a chorus worth singing. Those choruses come locked in 11 songs with subversively smart structures. With passion inspired by bits of youthful jealousy and nostalgia, “Time Moves Away from Me” finds Matt’s restless protagonist making out in a basement. Fittingly, it moves in three breathless sweeps, its tinder-hook build mimetic of the make-out sessions he’s writing about. You’ll know the feeling.