There’s an overwhelming exuberance that comes from The Shy Boys’ newest long player called Bell House. Rough-around-the-edges four-part harmonies intermingle with sparse garage rock compositions, bringing to mind The Feelies and the dB’s with a touch of K Records illumination. Their music has a timeless feel that gives it the feeling of finding some lost LP from the late-70s in a second hand record shop somewhere near the New Jersey turnpike. The Shy Boys hail from Kansas City, MO and they retain a Midwest longing in their sugary sweet songs, while still eluding to a gritty power pop essence from those aforementioned east coast bands. There’s a overwhelming grassy-green and humid feel to these songs that make me want to dig out my old high school yearbook and stare with a heavy heart at a bunch of kids that don’t know how good they’ve got it.
The Shy Boys consist of brothers Collin Rausch and Kyle Rausch, Konnor Ervin, Kyle Little and Ross Brown. They are pop classicists, tapping into a melancholy that Brian Wilson would tap into as well. Songs about simple things that aren’t so simple, like first love, growing up, wanting to be on your own, and then once you do grow up how you miss the simpler times. There’s elements of bands like Fountains of Wayne, Cherry Twister, Owsley, and even earlier Ben Folds Five. Twee vocals and huge harmonies are backed up by simple chords and catchy melodies. They released their debut self-titled in 2014. It was a lo fi affair that hinted at great things to come. Now with Bell House, their first release for Polyvinyl Records, they make good on that promise. At under 25 minutes Bell House is a concentrated shot of heartfelt songs filled with sugary harmonies and catchy melodies that will fill you with all those weird feelings you felt thinking about that girl that sat in front of you in Geometry class when you were 16.
“Miracle Gro” opens Bell House with a massive shot of wobbly vocal harmonies that brings to mind Dr. Dog and even Zombies’ “The Way I Feel Inside”. Then the big groove of “Take The Doggie” kicks in with a Dixie Dregs-approved riff and some Feelies indie rock vibes. This song just feels like an old classic you’d hear on late night pirate radio back in 1981. Just as you cross the Long Island Expressway it fades into static. “Tragic Loss” sounds like Real Estate with harmonies even Crosby Stills & Nash would approve of. This is an absolute stunner. “No Fun” has that wistful Real Estate vibe with vocals that bring Cherry Twister’s Steve Ward to mind(if you haven’t heard At Home With Cherry Twister do yourself a favor and listen to it.)
Elsewhere “Evil Sin” sounds like a cross between The Seekers’ “Georgie Girl” and Yo La Tengo. There’s a wobbly quality to the song, as if you’re listening to a cassette that’s been warped from laying in the front seat of your older brother’s ’76 Buick too long. “Basement” is all sunshine, soda pop, and riding your Schwinn thru the neighborhood. Title track “Bell House” feels like walking thru that same neighborhood many years later where old faces you once knew have moved on or passed away and you’re left to contemplate memories like specters. It’s an exquisite and bittersweet song that I can’t get enough of. “Champion” closes Bell House on handclaps, wistful lyrics, big harmonies, and what feels like a big hug before we say goodbye.
The Shy Boys have made a tight and exquisite power pop album in Bell House. It’s 22 minute of pure pop bliss that will surely pull a few heartstrings if you let it.
8.2 out of 10