Strapped is the 2nd album by San Diego, CA’s The Soft Pack, 2 years on from the band’s eponymous debut. Whereas their well regarded first could be fairly described as a straightforward guitar-band album – no criticism in that and it’s certainly a good album – there’s a little more going on under the bonnet this time around. We all know how it works, how by the time it comes around to putting pen to pad again, and heading back into the studio, you’re no longer the newest thing or the freshest-faced of propositions and, in the eyes of the press everywhere (not least those who built you up first time around) its evolve or be damned – to dwell on that sound everyone loved you for now plunges you straight to the realms of mediocrity, now you’re just churning out the same old same old, no love, no craft, no care. Well the good news is (in my humble opinion), that this is the better of the two albums. Why? Because it’s just a lot more interesting. Changes have been made, they’re not earth shattering, and if you liked what they did before, you’re not gonna dislike this, it’s not too dissimilar, it just has more going on. Where the first album was full of four-to-the-floor rhythms, jangly-angley guitars and was, by and large, quite frenetic and speedy, Strapped exists at an altogether different pace, in a more relaxed mood, a little more carefree, dare we say even smooth (if it didn’t come with such distinct and disparaging connotations). At times, like on "T-A-L-L-B-O-Y" and "Bobby Brown", it’s as if they’ve been getting along quite healthily, listening to a little lounge here and a some mainstream synth-and-sax 80’s pop there, to supplement binging on guitar music – a couple of pleasant surprises and, alongside the instrumental funk-pop-fusion of "Oxford Ave". It’s here where the differences in stylistic alteration are most obviously noticeable. All in all this seems like an album where the band want to show their interest in music, as music fans say, as well as as music makers – a turn for the better when it’s not an indulgence and here it all works nicely, making a more varied, and more listenable (than the first) album for it.