Washington, D.C. is home to a lot of great bands and invariably it's thought of as a harDCore town with Dischord Records being the home of many of those bands thought of as "D.C. bands" by those far outside the Beltway. There are limitations in defining the sound of a D.C. band so narrowly, or defining the sound of a Dischord act so carefully. The truth is that ever since the days of Shudder to Think and other acts on the label a few decades ago, what makes up the Dischord sound has broadened and expanded.
One of the best things I've heard on Dischord in ages that expands that D.C./Dischord sound is this new one from Soccer Team. Wonderfully titled Real Lessons in Cynicism, this second LP from the D.C. band is a supple and funky beast of an album that pushes at post-punk and genre conventions nimbly and with a great deal of musicianship and wit.
"Best Employed New Beau" glides in like some expert mash-up of hometown heroes Unrest and West Coasters Built to Spill. It's a lean and infectious jam and it's going to insinuate itself with your ears as soon as you hear it. "Lazy Colonist" and "Nose to Chin" offer up harder hooks of the sort that one would expect from the band's label, while "Short Term Expectations" unfurls gently on the back of Melissa Quinley's warm vocals. Poised somewhere between Versus spin-off Containe -- remember them? -- and a Mary Timony solo cut, the song showcases the flipside of the Soccer Team sound.
Still, it would be far too easy to say that harder stuff like "Friends Who Know" was the product of multi-instrumentalist Ryan Nelson and the mellower cuts were Quinely's work as one gets the sense here of a tight unit of players sharing in the musical glory. There's none of that indie hesitation or ironic sloppiness here that one might expect from this sort of post-punk that so precisely leaps over genres. It's clear that Ryan Nelson, Melissa Quinley, Dennis Kane, and Jason Hutto have polished their craft to the point where a cover of Sixteen Candles (1984) staple "Wish You Were Here" by the Thompson Twins comes across as borderline sincere and not smart-ass.
Other highlights of Real Lessons in Cynicism are the sleek and percolating "Too Many Lens Flares" and "Vacations on the Lam", all punchiness in the style of the largely forgotten Dambuilders.
This is one superb album and my immediate reaction upon hearing it was one of regret for not getting on board with these cats sooner (and for not seeing them live yet too). Real Lessons in Cynicism, out Tuesday on Dischord Records, is as good a D.C. album as one is likely to find in 2015. Quite possibly the best new thing I've heard on the label since that album from Brendan Canty's Deathfix, Soccer Team have suddenly catapulted to the front of my list of new(ish) bands to watch.
Follow Soccer Team on their official Facebook page.