Jen Maler

There's nothing about Foreign Born's full-length debut, On the Wing Now, that sounds specifically Californian. In fact, it seems like it might have crept down from Toronto or Montreal, with plenty of splashing cymbals, interlocking orchestral guitars, and icy reverberation glimmering by the torchlight of the band's hopeful melodies. It's a genuinely good album; don't be put off by the fact that it came out on a label run by perennial Hollywood douchebag (and "Celebrity DJ" to the stars!) Steve Aoki.

What's more noticeably symptomatic of the band being from Los Angeles is their careerist streak. They're all gussied up in the current issue of GQ, and they did a guest shot on the NBC show Chuck (filmed, by the band's account, while they were very drunk). Bass player Ariel Rechtshaid even produced "Hey There Delilah" for the Plain White T's—although I can't imagine it was the barebones production that got the ditty played on the radio ad nauseam last summer.

On the Wing Now wasn't produced on a ginormous budget in a slick Hollywood studio—although it sounds like it could have been. In actuality, guitarist Lewis Pesacov painstakingly recorded the album at home. After the record's completion, the band toured the country hawking handmade copies out of a van rigged to run on vegetable oil.

Save the commerciality for the band's lighter-ready anthems, with soaring sing-along melodies and trilling guitars that arc over the proceedings like fighter jets at an air show. Singer Matt Popieluch resembles a young, scrappy Tom Petty, with ghost-blond hair, a disdain for intelligible enunciation, and the courage to scrape the upper registers of his range. The band is accessible enough—and good enough, it must be said—to be huge. Their music is tailor-made for large audiences to share in communion, and if their second album is as good as the first, that's exactly what they'll find. Somehow, I don't expect Foreign Born will have a problem with that.