Sound — 8
There are certain bands that are sure to flourish on MTV and TRL, primarily because of their emotion-filled lyrics and accessible, easy-on-the-ear, power-pop sound. The Plain White T's fit this bill pretty well, and they have already even had a few songs featured on shows like the one-time music channel's Undressed and The Real Word/Road Rules Challenge. So before you even hear the band's latest record Every Second Counts, you might have some idea of what you'll be hearing. The band doesn't venture to far out of the expected format, but vocalist Tom Higgenson does have enough talent to carry the songs further than you might they could have otherwise. It's not that the Plain White T's (vocalist Tom Higgenson, guitarists Dave Tirio and Tim Lopez, bassist Mike Retondo, drummer De'Mar Hamilton) is playing into the hand of MTV, but their songs do tend to sound like too much of what abounds on MTV and Top 40 radio these days. Vocalist Higgenson is extremely talented, but he also sounds eerily similar to Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump throughout the Every Second Counts. Even so, Higgenson's vocals are the best part of Plain White T's and his voice actually acts like an instrument itself at times, thanks to his extensive range, impressive harmonies and unique phrasing. The first single, Hate (I Really Don't Like You) is absolutely an infectious song, even if you're not the fond of the power pop genre. With the introduction simply being Higgenson singing, Love, love, love, love, love in a Spanish-style melody, it succeeds at going beyond the usual pop format. The build up to the verse features a creative and upbeat guitar riff, which keeps the song strong even in between the vocals. It's also actually a fairly humorous song considering that the vocals are sung with such glee despite the lyrics that are saturated with bitterness. The band has an extremely happy sound, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it will probably turn off a lot of rock purists out there. While there are some interesting picking rhythms in songs like You And Me, most of the songs do stick with basic chord progression and leave most of the creativity to vocalist Higgenson.
Lyrics — 8
If you've heard Hate (I Really Don't Like You) already, then you're probably at least slightly amused. It's an interesting take on a song of love gone sour and will probably strike a chord if you've found yourself saying something similar about an ex. Higgenson sings, Hate is a strong word; But I really, really, really don't like you; Now that it's over; I don't even know what I liked about you. You'll probably have the lyrics stuck in your head after one listen. When that happens, you know that there is something at least a little bit unique about the song -- regardless if you like it or not. The track Making A Memory is a bit more characteristic of the Plain White T's with it's emotionally driven lyrics. Higgenson sings, Look at me; Can't you see; We were meant to be; Making a memory. There is plenty of relationship talk on Every Second Counts, and songs like Making A Memory may be a bit too sappy for some listeners. These are the types of songs that will likely either connect immediately with you or leave you running from the room.
Overall Impression — 8
The musical emphasis on Every Second Counts is placed on the harmonies most of the time, and the other instruments are probably taking the less-is-more approach. Granted, Higgenson's vocals are probably the strongest aspect of the record, but without his unique phrasing and vocal range, the songs would be a shell of what they currently are. That's relying a lot on one member of the band, and it's unfortunate that the other members of the band don't get a chance to showcase their own talents a bit more. The Plain White T's are not a bad band by any means and many of the new songs are instantly catchy, but there is a reason why shows on MTV find them accessible. They play songs that are more pop than rock, and the sentimental lyrics will probably be appreciated by their fans. Still, if you're looking for bands that look more outside of the box, the Plain White T's won't likely leave any kind of lasting impression.