(Independent Release) XOXO, the second short-form release from the Athens-based ensemble Family and Friends, is full of percussive acoustic guitar workouts, vaguely biblical lyrical themes and massive, uplifting choruses. Which is to say, the EP certainly won’t help the group shake the Mumford & Sons comparisons that have followed them from the start. (I’m not convinced “Amadeus” isn’t actually a Babel B-side.)
Not that the Friends seem all that concerned about it. The group bests its local posi-rock contemporaries by virtue of the musicians’ fearful skill sets and their willingness to get dirty when necessary: The Friends aren’t afraid to fuzz the hell out, as evidenced by fourth-track standout “Howl,” with its dense, dark singalong coda.
Thankfully, XOXO isn’t all bland universalism; the brooding “Parasites” introduces a welcome bitter flavor to the mix. By and large, though, Family and Friends’ well-executed music continues to live up to its sanguine band name. If cheery, anthemic folk-pop is your thing, XOXO will likely be your favorite local recording of the year. If it ain’t? Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.