The five-piece indie-pop outfit from Oklahoma known as The Starlight Mints delivers a grab-bag of musical goodies with its latest release, drowaton: vocals reminiscent of Frank Black (provided by frontman/guitarist Allan Vest), swelling instrumentals and a few samplings of random noises. Drummer Andy Nunez, keyboardist Marian Nunez and bassist Javier Gonzales join Vest in building a unique sound on a foundation of simple, energetic pop.
A playful formula of combining seemingly nonsense lyrics with an instrumental game of musical chairs makes up much of the album. The opening track, "Pumpkin," offers a thick bass line followed by a screeching trumpet, a circus organ and a chorus of "tra-la-las." Later, "Seventeen Devils" switches between a macabre symphony of violins and an upbeat acoustic guitar, while "The Bee" bounces around with a Nintendo video-game keyboard, heavy drums and Vest singing rhymes such as, "So I shouted on my megaphone / There's a lobster on my telephone."
This very non-serious majority does occasionally give way to some dramatic, uncomplicated tunes. The title track and "The Killer" are both meditatively slow, adding variety to the 12 songs found here. "Drowaton" undulates with a slow layering of the traditional three-piece pop, electronic purrs and moaning vocals that brings Incubus' Morning View to mind. "The Killer" adopts a more Western feel, with acoustic guitars accented by the faint cooing of a flute.
The Starlight Mints' ability to pull off equal amounts of silliness and calm without becoming obnoxious allows the new album to share many characteristics with the band's candy namesake: It's sweet, colorful and easy to digest.