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I can’t help thinking of Ivy’s new record as Fountains of Wayne and Nico—and as far as I’m concerned, Nico’s contributions to the Velvet Underground were terrible. I realize Ivy predates Adam Schlesinger’s other gig, but Fountains of Wayne’s album was better than either Ivy’s ’95 debut Realistic or the new Apartment Life; it was a near-flawless batch of masterful, infectious pop-rock songs that gathered emotional weight despite the slickness of the individual numbers. (I knew Schlesinger had a unique gift when I heard my boss attempting to whistle “Leave the Biker.”) Ivy’s cool, loungey pop is distinguished by the Eurostylings of chanteuse Dominique Durand, but the tunes, while pretty, don’t have the sticking power of Schlesinger’s Fountains creations. Apartment Life’s arrangements are airier and less guitar-driven than Realistic’s, with a sound suitable for Durand’s breathy voice (the exceptions being the pointless Oasis turn “You Don’t Know Anything” and “Get Out of the City,” which is an inversion of Fountains’ “Survival Car”). But Ivy’s music still conveys far more mood than feeling; although the songs all seem to concern a character going through some kind of crisis, they are so obliquely drawn that no specifics emerge. As off-hours background music, Ivy is fine, but the group’s tunes are hard to pay attention to, let alone sing along with. —James Lochart