Album Review: High profile names form The Playing Favorites

When friends get together and make music for the fun of it, with no worries about labels, sales and touring, the end result is usually a pleasant one. The Playing Favorites are proof of this theory.

Like side projects in general, this one formed from musicians wanting to play a different style of music with different people, and like most side bands, it put out some of the best music from these artists.

The idea of The Playing Favorites was drawn up one drunken night as Joey Cape (Lagwagon, Bad Astronaut) was on tour with another one of his bands, Me First and The Gimme Gimmes, in Japan. Cape and Luke Tierney decided to recruit friends Marko DeSantis (Sugarcult), Tim Cullen (Summercamp) and Mick Flowers (The Rentals) to fill out the line-up. With little fan fare or promotion, the band released I Remember When I Was Pretty on Suburban Home records earlier this month.

Word of mouth must have traveled fast because I Remember When I was Pretty is currently sold out on online music store It is a shame that neither Suburban Home nor the band itself promoted the album very aggressively, because the songs could all be singles on either college radio or mainstream outlets.

The two most well known members can best describe the band’s sound. Imagine a slower version of Cape’s Lagwagon, and DeSantis’s Sugarcult with even more sugar, and you get The Playing Favorites.

Historically, power-pop has been assigned to bands like The Boys and The Exploding Hearts, groups mixing punk with pop and new wave. Today’s power pop is geared toward radio friendly rock, and The Playing Favorites would fit into this current niche quite nicely.

"Leavingtown" opens the record and is a modern power-pop song that could easily be on the radio sandwiched between The All American Rejects and The Ataris. "Everyone Else" is a Cape-sung track that sounds like Lagwagon-lite.

"Good Years" resembles the Foo Fighters circa The Color and The Shape days. All five members of The Playing Favorites are no strangers to writing incredible hooks with their other bands, and their collaborative efforts shine on songs "Spill My Guts," "This is the Last Train" and "Indigenous."

The Playing Favorites takes you back in time to the 60s with "Stay" and to the 80s with "Drug Hugger," before going into 90s alternative with "Wasteland."

Time traveling aside, the band also knows how to write acoustic ballads with the piano and acoustic guitar-riven, "Futuring."

With all members currently tied up in their regular bands and endeavors, it is a shame The Playing Favorites isn’t a full-time band. The songs are all fun, and it appears as the band had a blast making them. At the end of the day isn’t that what music is about anyway?

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