Long Slow Dance

When a band changes directions from the standpoint of production, there’s a tendency to knee-jerk chin-high and bite through your tongue. Such an extreme response isn’t warranted in the case of the unexpectedly polished Long Slow Dance by The Fresh & Onlys, but it’s something to chew on nonetheless. Having churned out four LPs, two EPs and a slew of 45s since 2008, the San Francisco band has trekked a mighty landscape of psych-tinged rock ’n’ roll. But from the rowdy, low-fi approach of their self-titled debut full-length to the sophisticated and boisterous melodies of Play It Strange, there’s been a common thread of distortion—a sheen that, however subtle, has bridged all the gaps between their often diverse styles of songwriting. Long Slow Dance, in large part, sheds the noise, and instead showcases The Onlys’ ability to play shimmering, pensive pop that at times summons The Cure (“20 Days and 20 Nights,” “Presence of Mind”), embraces romance (the mid-tempo “Dream Girls”), yet still brandishes familiar steel (“Foolish Person”). The final product is an album that not only takes a chance, but emphatically succeeds in pleasing both the dedicated listeners while reaching out to a potentially larger audience. Kudos.