It marks not only singer Carah Faye Charnow’s return to the band whose founders were born in Shawnee, but also a return to the New Wave synth-pop sound that made them famous.
The opening trio of “Somewhere to Hide,” “Waiting Alone” and “Carrie” are just as synthsational as the band has ever been. “Carrie” is especially strong, evoking that ’80s-pop feel most tastefully, making for the strongest track since 2006’s “You Are the One.”
“Fading Listening” recalls — oddly enough — the chillwave mall pop Toro Y Moi and Washed Out currently are putting their own spins on, and it’s followed by a signature STG anthem, “The Sun,” that’s solid enough.
Out Tuesday, III is diverse in its offerings, but it makes for an uneven experience. “Speaking Japanese” is a mixed bag that, at times, sounds dated (and with a serious debt to No Doubt’s “Hella Good”), but it’s also the same bit of trashy pop that has earned Ke$ha her fair share of reluctantly hooked listeners. It’s the ballads that get the act in trouble, feeling lifeless or off-balance.
For better or for worse, Shiny Toy Guns are back to being the same group that made their debut album, We Are Pilots, a surprise hit and Grammy nominee. While they sounded ahead of their times in 2006, III sounds — at times — a little behind them. —Joshua Boydston