New Yorkers Disguise Covert Flyover Pop in Brit-Hipster Trappings

Though Robbers on High Street's name suggests illegally obtained Vespas and London tube maps, the New York four-piece isn't remotely British. While many of their local contemporaries may be faking accents and aping icy Mancunian synth lines, these boys play something decidedly sunnier.

In fact, the infectious melodies and wealth of diminished seventh chords on the Robbers' debut, Tree City, almost play like Maroon 5 for kids too cool to be seen with Songs About Jane. "Beneath the Trees," built around insistent, funkily dissonant piano chords and winding minor-key guitars, is the Robbers' "This Love"—a darkly syncopated tune about the end of a relationship. ROHS, however, manage to sex up the neutered blandness with the biting nasality of Ben Trokan's urgent Elvis Costello impersonation.

Elsewhere, the album delves into classic-rock territory, evoking Billy Joel's unadorned piano rolls and Chicago's brassy horns. Yet like Spoon, ROHS put slacker lyrics ("What else am I supposed to do, smoke cigarettes and brood?") into story songs about titular characters. Their "Amanda Green," who "can be so cold to me," might even be a good match for Spoon's "Jonathan Fisk," who "speaks with his fists"—neither sounds particularly dateable.

 
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