This is the kind of album that excites rock critics and college radio DJs and in-the-know music fans for two or three months, until the next album that excites rock critics and college radio DJs and in-the-know music fans comes along. This is the kind of album that keeps us occupied while we're waiting for something that blows our minds. And that's totally OK. This Is Somewhere is honest, it sounds heartfelt, and it's good. There are much worse ways to spend a few months than listening to this album.
The musicianship is competent, the songs are well-written, and the hooks almost get stuck in your head. The lyrics are occasionally thought-provoking and occasionally kind of generic. (For what it's worth, "Ah Mary" is one of the most clever, charming, and subtle political songs I've heard in a long time.) It's a good album that does its thing really well, but it doesn't break any new ground.
The cover photo is strong, and I'm annoyed that the good people at EPFL stuck a sticker right on top of it. The image is a little bit abstract, it shows the band without fully showing the band (I assume it's the band on the cover but I can't tell for certain, thanks to that annoying sticker), and it subconsciously conveys the band's roots-rock sound by using props like an old Chevy truck. The inside photos are simple portraits with a great deal of personality. It would've been nice if designer Lawrence Azerrad hadn't skipped class on the day his art school professors discussed how serif typefaces break up at very small sizes.
Listen if you like: Any rootsy American female singer from the past 40 years: Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Maria McKee, Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow.
If it were food, it'd be: A bag of frozen strawberries on a cold March morning when you're desperately waiting for spring.