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Is There Anybody Out There?

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Album Review

New York pop duo A Great Big World enter the big leagues with their debut LP Is There Anybody Out There? After several years of kicking around the Big Apple's singer/songwriter scene, Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino entered the public's consciousness in 2013 when their spirited piano anthem "This Is the New Year" was covered on an episode of Fox's zeitgeist generator Glee. The song first appeared on Axel's 2011 solo record and then reappeared post-Glee under the duo's newly adopted moniker. With their earnest, melodic piano-pop and youthful spirit, comparisons to early Ben Folds Five are inevitable, but where Folds tempered his wistfulness with a wry and often mischievous sense of humor, Axel and Vaccarino generally reach for the stars, fueled largely by hope and positivity. The thirteen song album they've built around their breakout single is truly a loaded gun of pop music and it hits the mark more often than not. Brimming with echoes of past piano masters like Billy Joel and Andy Pratt, they're not breaking the mold, but they've certainly read the book. From the E.L.O. punch of "Land of Opportunity" to the Buggles-punctuated "I Really Want It," they tackle some classic pop territory with a wide-eyed sincerity that is ultimately appealing if occasionally trite. A Great Big World fare best when they're singing full-hearted rockers to the back of the room, covering familiar subjects of breaking out and breaking through like on the album version of "This Is the New Year." Dan Romer's production is concise and full of punch recalling his work with bands like Jukebox the Ghost and Ingrid Michaelson. There are certainly moments on Is There Anybody Out There? that don't quite work or would benefit from some subtlety. The well-intentioned, but poorly executed "Everyone is Gay" really misses badly and several of the ballads can't seem to recover from their lack of personality. Still, if you're willing to drink their kool-aid, A Great Big World will deliver you to a pretty happy and hopeful place on this debut.

Biography

Formed: 2010 in New York, NY

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '10s

Melodic singer/songwriter duo A Great Big World feature the talents of Ian Axel and Chad King. Formed while Axel and King were music business students at New York University, the duo toured in 2011, playing their own songs as well as covers by such artists as Ingrid Michaelson and Five for Fighting. In 2012, they officially adopted the name A Great Big World and released a Kickstarter-funded self-titled EP. In 2013, the duo's profile was raised significantly after their song "This Is the New Year"...
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Is There Anybody Out There?, A Great Big World
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