For many, the word “Princeton” is inextricably linked to old money and preppy snobs in New Jersey. Tell them the Ivy League name is attached to an up-and-coming indie pop band and the conversation might lead to Vampire Weekend, the famously (and shamelessly) Lacoste-sporting Ivy Leaguers whose self-titled debut made some serious noise last year. It seems, at first glance, that “Ivy League pop” may be becoming a genre all its own.

Princeton

Cocoon of Love
Kanine

Princeton isn’t a band of Ivy Leaguers, however — the members attest the name comes from the Santa Barbara street on which they grew up, not the school. While the band and Vampire Weekend both have similar summer breeziness to their sounds, Princeton’s Cocoon of Love is less lyrically derivative, endlessly more lush and certainly smarter. This is the sound of Vampire Weekend all grown up — or with a Master’s in indie pop, if you prefer.

Where its vampiric counterparts relied on Afro-beat simplicities ad nauseum to make their sound complete, Princeton enlists Afro-beat only in flourishes, touching instead upon more richly textured orchestral pop. Elements of twee abound on Cocoon as well; its bookish, post-graduate storytelling brings to mind Belle and Sebastian or The Kinks. Needless to say, almost any of these songs would fit in a Wes Anderson movie — and in a good way.

“Sadie and Andy” leads off with a whimsical dialogue between two long-lost lovers, complete with a prominent string section and harpsichord as well as guest vocals from Meredith Metcalf, who provides the voice of “Sadie.” Immediately bringing baroque arrangements to the fore, the song introduces Princeton’s smart pop in terrific fashion.

Standout single “Calypso Gold” is a sun-drenched ode to the Caribbean, with thickly layered strings and guitars along with splashes of xylophone and ukulele thrown into the mix. Beginning with a calypso beat courtesy of a vintage drum machine, the song quickly erupts into an incredibly lucid shuffle that carries along almost hypnotically. A fantastic moment on an already strong album, “Calypso Gold” draws you from the shade and dares you to go back (trust me, you won’t want to).

Elsewhere on the album, the chorus-ridden guitars and frantic drumming on “Martina and Clive Krantz” jangle like it’s 1982, while “Sylvie” is a melancholy waltz, recalling the more-tortured troubadours of pop’s past.

Once panned by a critic as merely “the sound of an indie band trying to make it,” it’s clear that Princeton sets itself apart from its contemporaries. While many bands trying to “make it” tend to rely on found sounds and vocal deliveries far from the beaten path in a forced attempt to stand out, Princeton’s offering comes neatly wrapped with a bow. There are no yelps or challenging eccentricities here — Cocoon of Love is much too pretty for that.

With a tour supporting Ra Ra Riot already in the works, expect to hear much from these guys in the coming months. But don’t let those longer nights and colder days fool you — Cocoon of Love might just make the summer last a little bit longer than expected.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.