Even if you sniff out similarities to the Shins or Built to Spill, Seattle-based Boat's new album doesn't feel derivative. Setting the Paces is gleefully confessional, steeped in weird metaphors, often silly but always sung with such full-throated earnestness that it's easy to get sucked in. This is, finally, an antidote to humorless, self-important indie pop.
"We've Been Friends Since 1989" begins with the line, "You can de-claw all of your pets, but your new black sofa will still be a mess," before erupting into a "Daydream Believer"-styled chorus. Other songs play with geeky minutia. In "Lately," for instance, frontman D. Crane sings, "I was eatin' nachos, sittin' with my mother, talkin' about growin' up in New Jersey—a state without a hero." It's refreshing to hear a band not act so cool. Which, of course, makes them cool.
The band uses dance party pop hooks to their fullest and takes it a step further by adding old-school vocal flourishes reminiscent of the Beach Boys or the Beatles. When Crane sings the word "around" he croons it as "arou-ou-ou-ooh-ound," and red is "re-ooh-eh-ooh-ed." It's almost so over-the-top that you can't take it seriously, but keen details and tight musicianship render it genuinely enjoyable.
Boat plays the UC Ballroom Friday, Oct. 23, at 8 PM with Black Eyes & Neckties, Fiancée and Places. $10/$8 advance/$8 with Griz card/$6 advance with Griz card.