Spin Cycle | 2000

There's certainly something to be said for the guilty pleasure music that you normally wouldn't love if it weren't for the fact that it's so damn good. Welcome to Papas Fritas' version of the guiltiest of pleasures, "Buildings and Grounds" (Minty Fresh). Thirteen songs of pure pop so brilliant and hook-riddled that you can forget about humming them at work or in the shower; you just might find yourself singing along in your sleep.

It's easy to spot Papas Fritas' philosophy in their name -- Pop Has Freed Us Music. On this, the Boston trio's third full length, they deliver us all into the bliss and beauty of pop music at its best. And although the word "pop" leaves you expecting the inevitable Beatles rip off, the band only hints at the fab four in the opening number, "Girl." From there on their influences span the history of guitar rock, from '70s power pop ("Vertical Lives") to '80s Fleetwood Mac-esque stylings ("I Believe in Fate"), all the while channeling it through their own original voices.

But it's the strength of the songwriting and the performances that push this album beyond something that just sounds "cute." All three members (Tony Godess, Shivika Asthana and Keith Gendel) deliver the goods on both counts, making an album full of No. 1 hits if only they had been released in different decades. Just one listen to "Far From an Answer" and it's easy to understand how there would no holding this song back from a top spot on the charts in 1976.

In a perfect world, this album would sell millions and set new musical standards for the coming century. But instead, pop music this brilliant will certainly be passed up for the next Korn or Britney Spears (really, are they that different?), while bands like Papas Fritas will likely only liberate the lucky few who find this gem in the bins of their local indie music store.

- Christopher Anderson