Popular Mechanics

When music critics tabulate their year-end top-10s for 2009, Popular Mechanics by Chico’s Surrogate deserves to be at the top of those lists. Here is a gorgeous indie-rock album that warrants a massive audience. Popular Mechanics will appeal to fans of Pedro the Lion and Death Cab for Cutie, while maintaining a singular identity through songwriter Christopher Keene’s unique knack for composing genuinely affecting pop songs. Surrogate assuredly moves its melodies forward by way of Jordan Mallory’s smart drumming, acoustic strums and emotive guitar lines that herald a melancholic weight that contributes to what makes this album so compelling. “Exercise Machines” begins with acoustic guitar and plucked violin strings, its verses collapse as the chorus crashes down in euphoric waves. “Cynicism” is the band at its most mesmerizing and heartbreaking: “You might as well get used to painting your face on/And keep your heart away from your sleeve … Nobody really thinks about you/Nobody cares as much as I do …” Keene’s sincerity is his band’s greatest attribute and can likely convince even the most jaded of listeners that Surrogate is the real deal.