There's something about a record with a kitten playing a toy piano on the cover that makes you want to like it.
Fortunately, the music on local band My My My's latest record, "Little Cat Plays the Alpha Rave," is as likable as the album art. Although the band has only been in existence since 2007, "Little Cat" is their third effort, preceded by "Theme Songs for Your Melancholy" and "Conjugation Nation."
The band has been lauded as Chicago's version of the New Pornographers, and that's an appropriate description. Like the Canadian mainstays of thinking man's pop, My My My is full of charm with boy-girl vocals, strange song titles and strong, unpredictable-yet-catchy melodies.
The driving force behind My My My is singer-songwriter Russell Baylin, who delivers rocking cuts such as opener "So, You Like Italo-Disco" and "Best Laid Plans" with gusto. The songs are made even better with the complementary sweet vocals of Sarah Snow, who brings another highlight to the disc in the acoustic, chilled out "Boom Boom," which allows her a genuine Neko Case moment.
Other notable tracks include "Palisades," featuring a cool sped up chorus out of nowhere that sort of reminds me of fellow Chicago band Skybox, the bizarrely captivating "A Blind Salamander Came to Town and Tapped His Way Into Their Hearts" and the melodic, upbeat closer "Aztec vs. Building." There's even a brief, strangely addictive eponymous track, in which the little cat does just what the title says.
"Little Cat" is a fully-realized, confident record that plays like the work of a band with not only strong musical talent and intelligence, but also a sense of humor - something all too rare in indie music today. The record takes a few spins to really stick, but once it worms its way into your mind you'll find a consistently enjoyable and satisfying collection of quirky, smart pop tunes with long-term appeal.