There was a time -- maybe 10 years ago -- when every pop record with a bit of lap steel or a strum of the banjo got stuck with the somewhat awkwardly named alt-country label. (Y'all-ternative, twang-core -- same thing.) Sounds like pigeonholing, but it made sense: Remember when the proper response to "What kind of music do you like?" was "Anything but country"? Now you see Sweetheart of the Rodeo T-shirts at punk shows, and it's no big deal.
Clearly, we've come a long way since Gram Parsons became an acceptable name-drop among the post-Strokes set. And with Me First, The Elected (a side-project of Rilo Kiley vocalist Blake Sennett) take full advantage of the musical wiggle-room afforded to rock bands in our sonically-liberated 21st century. In truth, Me First is a simple, sweetly honest pop record, clearly influenced by the Beach Boys, The Byrds, and other sun-dazed bands you'd expect to hear at a California bonfire.
But check out the instrument inventory. Glockenspiel. Bassoon. Clavinet. Violin. Even Sennett's voice is hauntingly unique, with a touch of Elliott Smith, a whole lotta Conor Oberst, and, if his lyrics can be believed, a hell of an Oedipal complex to boot.
Put it all together, and you've got a fairly complicated indie-rock roots record. Not that The Elected are wholly uncategorizable, but occasionally, an album comes along whose sound is just timeless enough that it doesn't need to be strictly sorted or shelved. My guess? Me First T-shirt spottings at underground electronica shows probably aren't too terribly far off.