The Eau Claire quartet Meridene revels in pop-drenched rock on its sophomore release, proving that Shins-inspired sounds are anything but passé. The opening track, "Everyone's Waiting," begins with a pounding piano that sparkles as it rocks, then gives way to a melodic punch reminiscent of A.C. Newman's "On the Table." A few minutes later, "Written Like Mad Sonnets" takes a different route through pop-rock's past with vocals that recall both the Shins and late-1990s emo. The keyboards, meanwhile, have a mind of their own, summoning the spirit of a late-1980s Jackson Browne tune.
"Bible Belt" ventures off the beaten path, into a more rustic sound - and a lower register - that nods to the north-woods hideout where the tracks were recorded and, to some extent, its owner, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. However, the band rekindles its love affair with twitchy guitars and high-pitched vocals before the album's over, settling into a groove that hints at memories of old Promise Ring shows while documenting issues that define the present, from postmodern heartbreak to the crippling effects of the recession.