There are very few actual pop rock bands out there anymore.
The only two sustained groups I can think of off the top of my head in the modern pop rock scene are Maroon 5, who get blander and stiffer with each release, and toothless soccer-mom bait, Train. It makes you forget that this is a genre that’s really lame, when it could be really fun.
That’s the job of The Jim Ivins Band. Based out of Richmond, Virginia, the quartet have the stones to do what few independent groups do: write truly poppy pop rock. It’s not like Belle & Sebastian, where pop hooks are wrapped up in twee quirk and humor, or fellow New Music features The Perms, who souped their hooks up in distortion and loud instrumentals. No, The Jim Ivins Band plays pop rock straight in a way not seen since The Goo Goo Dolls or Third Eye Blind.
Everything We Wanted is short and sweet at seven songs and some twenty five minutes long. Lead single “The Sight of Fire”, with poppy drum beats, active basslines, acoustic strumming, and electric guitar embellishments, works as a great mission statement. The chorus is big and immediately sing-alongable, and it’s hard not to get caught up (especially on the dynamic bridge). It helps here and all over that lead singer, the eponymous Jim Ivins, has a “heart-on-the-sleeve” kind of voice that sounds earnest without being overwrought or put on, as well as charisma to boot.
The band themselves do a great job, creating songs that consist of similar aspects, but each song is distinct at the same time. “Lost My Mind” grooves more than anything else while “Emergency” feels born from a live breakdown of “It’s Getting Better”. Another boon for Everything We Wanted is that on record, these songs sound like they would be promising to see live. They’re propulsive and catchy enough that it’s hard to stay still while listening to them; instruments drop in and out, but it’s never chaotic.
For what it’s worth, I think that Everything We Wanted peaks in the middle with “Rollercoaster” and “It’s Getting Better”. The former is a silly love song, but damn well knows and enjoys it for that, and builds layer by layer from a single acoustic guitar to a pretty, hands up chorus. “It’s Getting Better”, meanwhile, is probably the liveliest song on the EP; the drums and electric guitar hit harder than elsewhere, the melody feels completely natural, and the song segues right into “Emergency” in the most satisfying way (and, besides sharing a song title, “Emergency” has the muscle and oomph of Paramore in their prime, giving Everything We Wanted some needed grit).
Lyrically, the EP goes for the heart. Even when songs touch on tougher issues, there’s an unending sense of optimism, as embodied by “Everything We Wanted”. “Run” and “It’s Getting Better” celebrate romances new and old, and “Rollercoaster” is a love song about not wanting to be a love song, but screw it, sometimes you just can’t help yourself. Everything We Wanted also has a very personal bend; no matter what topic, it’s loaded with “you”s and “I”s to bring it home.
Everything We Wanted came out on Tuesday, and I think it’s really worth looking into. It’s refreshing to see something this poppy get taken seriously. If I had a complaint, it’d be that “Run” manages to unfortunately be the longest and weakest song on the EP, as well as the first. Maybe it’s just because the EP starts on the wrong foot, but it also took a few listens for most of these songs to really click. But, if you give it a fair shot, Everything We Wanted is the solid pop rock you didn’t know you missed.