I have a hard time writing about The Format. Because I know my love for them exceeds what is generally a normal amount of love for a band. In fact, I had to start a new last.fm account because The Format had about 500 plays, surpassing any other artist by at least threefold. My husband is also the culprit for a lot of those plays, but nevermind that we are a nerdy Format-loving couple. I'm not being eloquent at all here, so let me shut up and just copy and paste my favorite review of The Format's second album Dog Problems.
Tired of lamenting the split from a significant other locked in a dark room with Bright Eyes on repeat? Ready to turn that pain into a joyous singalong outside under the bright sun? Lucky for you, Arizona's the Format -- barely appearing phased at being dropped by Atlantic in 2005 -- have arrived with their self-released sophomore full-length, Dog Problems. Sure the album is mostly about singer Nate Ruess' most recent breakup and subsequent broken heart, but seriously, it's hands-down the feel-good album of the summer. After all, the heartache-induced lyrics of sarcasm and bitterness are in direct contrast to the sonic warmth emanating from every note-filled corner. Deftly elaborating on the sweet indie pop affair of 2003's Interventions and Lullabies, the guys have moved past straightforward ditties to craft songs that incorporate a wide range of instruments, tones, and occasionally, full-on orchestrations. "Time Bomb" immediately launches forth with exuberant vocal harmonies before the key-dancing chorus boogies to the front; the ironically catchy "The Compromise" -- which is the defiant result of Atlantic asking for a pop hit -- can be called radio-friendly in the best sense of the term. From a whimsical, carnival-esque air that appears sporadically throughout, the Format mix in horn sections, piano, banjo, handclaps and pretty much whatever else was lying around the studio when recording commenced. But every element is cleanly pulled off with such effortless charm, grace, and style that the songs in no way feel bogged down under the weight of the bands' ambition. The music never sounds forced or like the band is simply trying to be different through gimmicks; they've just matured into a new skin that fits as delightfully as their old. The Format were already showing obvious signs of being unable to write a bad song on Lullabies, but Dog Problems simply glows from beginning to end. It's like the music (both the gentle songs and high-energy ones) just can't help being fun and catchy, even if for some reason it didn't want to. The Format skirts cheesiness and cliché trappings by simply knowing how to make likable pop music that is entertaining and smart -- and they've absolutely never sounded better.
By Corey Apar, taken from allmusic.com
In celebration of the album's first full year in the marketplace, The Format is offering Dog Problems for free on their website (no strings attached). I urge everyone to download my favorite album of 2006 while you can (offer ends July 16th). If you love it, and I know you will, then go see them on their summer tour.
And as a bonus, here are some rare cover songs from The Format:
The Format - The Lottery Song (Bonus Track from Dog Problems - Harry Nilsson cover)
The Format - Apeman (Limited Edition CD Single - The Kinks cover)
The Format - Glutton of Symphony (Limited Edition Vinyl 7" Single - Jellyfish cover)
The Format - Movin' Out (Live at the Marquee Theater - Billy Joel cover)
And, finally, the song that will sell you, even if you refuse to be sold:
The Format - Janet (Studio Recording from the Snails EP)
P.S. Visit Spinner.com for a video and audio podcast from The Format, where you can hear their new song "Swans".
RIYL: The Beatles, XTC, The Shins, Limbeck, Steel Train