Connecting the dots of '90s indie rock can be a bewildering task. It's almost as if "emo," the decade's pet genre, were more an acronym for "Ex Members of" than the lobbed-off truncation of "emotional." Case in point: Jealous Sound, an L.A. foursome that scavenged members from such Clinton-era heavies as Shudder to Think, Jawbox, and Sunday's Best. With the affecting coo of ex-Knapsack leader Blair Shehan, the band was a promising lesser light of the emo crossover, selling an impressive 11,000 copies of its eponymous debut EP.
That collection and the full-length platter that followed (2003's Kill Them With Kindness) are rich with sentimental anthems and lyrical laments. But -- get this -- there's none of the candy-ass whining that made a quick cliché out of most of the three-letter scene. Tunes such as "The Fold Out" and "The Gift Horse" eschew the slick frat rock of Jimmy Eat World and the Dear Diary sap of Dashboard Confessional. It's simple, solid guitar pop without pretense. And when Shehan pines, "Did you manage to forget? Did you tie the tourniquet?" on "The Gift Horse," he's smart to follow it with one request: "Forgive me for gushing." Sure, we'll forgive; after all, he's putting the "tional" back in one of our favorite words.