If the idea of a hipster-savvy Steely Dan isn't appealing, check out of this paragraph now. With the group that takes his name in tow, area guitarist Will McBride makes jazzy, soul-fusion pop, where sometimes-pointed lyrics play against the music's energetic swing. The six-song EP All In is the Wake Forest trio's fourth studio recording; this time, they benefit from the crisp production of John Plymale, an engineering veteran with credits from Superchunk and Squirrel Nut Zippers.
McBride sports a strong voice, and cuts such as "If You Were Gone" nail the early '80s post-disco pop vibe that Hall & Oates mapped out with "Maneater." Similarly, the boisterous Big Easy swing of "Funkside" boasts an over-the-top energy that recalls Kool & the Gang. To counter, McBride also offers a reverent take on Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are." The creamy, smooth surface of jazz and soul might sound as dated as blue-eyed, lover-man R&B, but McBride at least owns his approach.
The record's real standout, though, lands when McBride adds a little attitude. "Tell Me I'm Wrong" blends slinky bass and eerie keys in a way that recalls Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives." McBride feels he's been misled, so he demands an explanation over the kind of music playing when Tony attacked Rico over Lola at the Copacabana. The anxiousness of the cuckolded lover over the doctor's waiting room music offers verve through juxtaposition—a real swagger that, otherwise, McBride feels like he's borrowing from other sources. —Chris Parker