A band's albums are a lot like dates: The more experienced you are, the more likely you are to pass if you're disappointed after the first go around. The more patient among us might object that few arrive ready out of the box to entertain and enjoy. Sometimes its those slow-moving first 30 pages that give way to a masterpiece. Not that often, though. Raleigh-via-Nashville-via-college-via-Los Angeles-via Raleigh quartet Pico Vs. Island Trees (now officially a duo) is a little more fortunate than some punk staring down Harry Callahan's .44 Magnum.
Pico's made great strides since their apocryphally titled 2004 debut Just Wait. That album's refried boogie, blue-eyed funk and pink-collar pop recalled keggers and frat parties in the worst ways. The rugged '05 single "Turn It Up" engendered that sentiment further, but it's the atmospheric B-Side, "Song to Sing," that offers the template for new EP, Futura.
Though the funk undercurrent remains, it's subdued beneath a pop veneer, content to offer a jazzy, light-footed backdrop for agile melodies. Lead singer Bryan Carter's croon at times feels a tad pat and cloying ("Last Hit"), and the late-night '70s soft rock vibe of the piano-driven "Able Bodies" feels tired enough to be suffering from jet lag. The hooks are durable, though. At its best, the radio-ready modern pop paean "Sugar Rush," watercolor synth, a bubbly guitar riff and insistent vocal harmonies coalesce into something you not only wouldn't mind hearing on the radio but are pretty sure you already have.
While its ambitions are modest and rather conventional, it's difficult to quibble with the execution, which offers bright, tasteful adult contemporary fare. While deeply informed by '70s soul pop and soft rock, it manages to sound more fresh and vibrant than dated or derivative.
Pico Vs. Island Trees plays with The Noises 10 at Lincoln Theatre Friday, April 17, at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10-$12.