Seems like a lifetime’s passed since the Jason Schwartzman-bolstered Phantom Planet struck gold with starry-eyed O.C. theme song “California.” Now as the Schwartzman-less Planet and similarly aging emo-punk bands actively strive for mainstream success by the Vans-load, Plain White T’s sun-soaked “Meet Me in California” evokes the same new-beginning reinvention as its predecessor, while simultaneously nudging the Chicago quintet ever nearer to the forefront of the synergy-reliant phenomenon.
Best known for juggernaut prom standard “Hey There Delilah,” the Grammy nominees/Greek house band offer the sappy-sweet “1, 2, 3, 4” as a swooning, acoustic nod to that hit’s career-making success. But as a whole, the Every Second Counts follow-up adds a concentrated dose of power to its established pop, exploring the same classic-’60s terrain recently mined by Panic at the Disco, if not the same psychedelic scope.
The buoyant harmonies and self-empowerment themes of “Someday,” “Sunlight” and the title track complement the upbeat horns (“Serious Mistake”) and harmonica (“I Really Want You”); even the doo-wop dabbling of “That Girl” seems perfectly in place. World shies away from anything overtly heavy or deep, preferring to be viewed as a cohesive collection of youthful sing-alongs to a dancier, more mature effort. It’s all harmless fun, the kind of precisely calculated maneuver that makes living up to impossibly high expectations seem so effortless.