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Power-Pop 'Oxygen' for a Spring Day

The Promise Ring became legendary, though far from wealthy, as a prototypical purveyor of emo-rock, a subgenre whose practitioners play intensely sincere rock 'n' roll with their souls bared and their hearts on their sleeves. In recent years, many young bands have hit it big standing on The Promise Ring's shoulders, but the Milwaukee group never capitalized on its influence, thanks in large part to years of bad luck and commercially ill-timed experimentation.

Two members of The Promise Ring went on to form Maritime, which released an appealing but uneven debut album in 2004 -- and which takes a quantum leap forward on We, the Vehicles, a sweetly buzzing collection of ingratiating power-pop. Springtime anthems don't get much catchier than "Tearing Up the Oxygen," a wonderfully sunny gem propelled by bleeping synths and "ah-ah" choruses.

Still, beneath the hooks zipping around on the surface lies a melancholy rumination on romantic alienation that's reminiscent of (and worthy of) Death Cab for Cutie. It takes a few exposures to sort out what singer Davey von Bohlen is driving at on "Tearing Up the Oxygen," but that's hardly a chore: Whether on the first listen or the fortieth, the journey sounds downright dazzling.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)