Blame it all on Weezer: Over the past three years, scores of aspiring rockers have taken to mimicking alternative artists that had radio hits around 1996. Half the emo bands in the world sound like Third Eye Blind. And though it rocks a little harder than your average "Don't call us emo or we'll cry" band, Are You Listening might as well be a Better Than Ezra album. It's a little early for '90s nostalgia, but everybody else is doing it, and Quickening does it better than most.
Quickening's last disc, 2003's promising Ones and Zeroes, touched on every type of modern rock. Listening drops the grungy bits, focusing on the soft-and-sensitive-but-not-so-much-so-that-we're-averse-to-power-chords mode. The self-produced 11-track disc revisits four solid cuts from Ones and Zeroes, polishing the big choruses until they're comparable to those of most big indie bands. And when the new track "Collision Course" takes flight, the band sounds like Vagrant Records material.