Kindred spirits: Peter, Bjorn and John, James Blake, Vampire Weekend
Show: With Panama Wedding on Monday at the Rock & Roll Hotel. Show starts at 8 p.m. 202-388-7625. www.rockandrollhoteldc.com. $12 in advance, $14 at the door.
Some electronica is called IDM, short for “intelligent dance music.” The best songs on Dan Croll’s “Sweet Disarray” might be termed SSP, for “smart synth pop.” The British singer-songwriter emphasizes airy vocals and bouncy melodies over heavy beats, but his music isn’t just chirpy. Such standouts as “From Nowhere” are shrewdly arranged, with brief but cogent instrumental breaks.
The album is spotty, though, and not only because Croll sometimes shifts toward more traditional timbres, like the acoustic guitar that grounds the over-sweetened title track. A former student at the Paul McCartney-supported Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts, Croll shares the former Beatle’s weakness for easy-listening pap. And Croll’s homages can sound like mere knockoffs, as when he does an all too accurate imitation of David Gray on “Always Like This.”
“Sweet Disarray” features a range of collaborators. Former Ponytail guitarist Dustin Wong co-wrote “In/Out,” an Afropop-tinged tune that’s one of album highlights. The Very Best’s Johan Karlberg assisted with “Compliment Your Soul,” which is equally catchy but too eager to please. “I just want to compliment your soul,” Croll trills with the unctuousness of a motivational speaker. At such moments, it seems that this McCartney pupil needs to brush up on his Lennon-ism.