Fountains of Wayne has always been slightly miscast as a chipper band of power-pop ironists, thanks in part to the omnipresence of the 2003 novelty hit "Stacy's Mom." But even that song is infused with a melancholy churn: Sure, "Stacy's Mom" makes light of adolescent desire and delusion, but songwriters Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger still find a way to relate to the raw, unrequited want that exists at the core of every undersexed teenager — and in the spirit of everyone who's ever felt that way. Fountains of Wayne's fine new album, Sky Full of Holes, keeps coming back to those unfulfilled dreams, no matter how breezily Collingwood and company package them.
It speaks well of this Tiny Desk Concert that Fountains of Wayne's set pokes around in a few gray areas; its four songs showcase a band with tremendous narrative gifts and a real flair for subtle beauty. The two songs here from Sky Full of Holes — "The Summer Place" and "A Dip in the Ocean," each of which takes a sideways look at leisure — both sound rewardingly catchy and appropriately sunny. But the real knockouts are two wistful highlights from past albums: the unstoppably gorgeous "Valley Winter Song" (from Welcome Interstate Managers) and the decade-old sort-of encore "Troubled Times" (from Utopia Parkway). Fountains of Wayne was supposed to play only three songs at the NPR Music offices, but Collingwood could be overheard rehearsing "Troubled Times" in the men's room beforehand, and there was no way we could let him leave without playing it. One of the most gorgeous ballads to never so much as graze the pop charts, it's a career highlight for a band that keeps churning them out.
- "The Summer Place"
- "Valley Winter Song"
- "A Dip In The Ocean"
- "Troubled Times"
Michael Katzif, Bob Boilen (cameras); edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Amanda Steen/NPR