Sponic

Contrast lies at the heart of the Foxymorons’ appeal. This indie-pop-country duo has been at it for years, but one thing hasn’t changed: The lilting, intuitive banter between singing/songwriting team Jerry James and David Dewese.

Sending their respective contributions to each other through the mail (James in Austin, Texas and Dewese in Nashville) and playing nearly every instrument on the album, the Foxymorons have eked out a unique niche in the crowded Melodic Rock auditorium. Think of a Big Star cover band composed of members of Guided by Voices and Wilco, and you’re close.

Hesitation Eyes improves over past releases by honing the considerable talents of both members, making for their most cohesive, endlessly listenable effort yet. James possesses the raspier, more lethargic pipes, his songs dripping with a dusty, Malkmus-on-bourbon charm. Sounding like he just rolled out of bed, he amiably works his way through track such as “Harvard Hands” and “Between the Lines,” often bolstered by Dewese’s ultra-smooth, Lemonheads-meets-Smithereens backing vocals. Dewese, of course, leans toward the poppier side of the fence, occasionally stumbling into earnest territory with his gorgeous, soaring melodies. This isn’t necessarily a band thing, since the lyrics are typically intelligent and the delivery palatable.

The ratio of upbeat, bouncy numbers to bittersweet ballads is just about right; it’s clear the Foxymorons know how to sequence a great album and play to their respective strengths. The production is incredibly clean but immediate – a far cry from the occasional boombox-sounding jam on previous discs. Let’s hope they keep producing irresistible pop gems like this well into the future, and for a much wider audience.