Like contemporaries such as the Avett Brothers, the Felice Brothers are making a concerted effort to carry on the tradition of ’60s revival Americana. The group accomplishes this almost single-handedly, having released a steady stream of albums for 11 years. None of their songs could be categorized as folk-pop, nor do they branch out from typical folk/country rock instruments, but the band tends toward lively, carefree torch songs. That carefree tone would seem to be on the back burner for an album called Life in the Dark, but, for the most part, the brothers’ new album continues their tradition of upbeat Americana.

The opening tracks unfortunately illustrate the sameness that can creep into the band’s songs. “Aerosol Ball” and “Jack at the Asylum” highlight the Felice Brothers’ go-to instruments: accordion, fiddle and guitar, with the occasional tinny piano thrown into the mix. Ian Felice’s lyrics continue to revel in tongue-twisting wordplay that insists on name-dropping American cities and locales. “Aerosol Ball” begins, “The rain in Maine/ Is made of Novocaine/ In the Florida Keys/ It’s made of Antifreeze.” This kind of tongue-in-cheek songwriting attempts to convey a canny understanding of American hypocrisy without doing much more than list monopoly corporations. “Jack at the Asylum” is more of the same – this time seemingly addressing mental issues – but gets bogged down in empty imagery of “the land of the lost Cherokee” and “the rivers of red majesty.”

Counteracting the flatter (though no less fun-loving) opening tracks are the title track and “Triumph ’73,” which lean toward bluegrass/folk ballads in their minimalist arrangements and evocative strings. These lyrics in particular delve into something deeper than vaguely folky sayings sung with a fiddle. “Life in the Dark” is less broadly accusatory, focusing on an individual story of loss and despair. But “Triumph ’73” is an album highlight, building simply on Ian Felice’s nasally voice and a plaintive guitar riff to tell a classic ballad story of abandoning an unhealthy relationship, contrasting the enlightened narrator with a new, unsuspecting man. The Felice Brothers are at their best in subtler, slower songs like “Diamond Bell” and “Sell the House” whose dirgeful arrangements match Ian Felice’s sobering lyrics.

A major obstacle for the Felice Brothers’ relatively unadorned folk music is the question of authenticity. As a musical style, folk is easily aped (hell, it has a long history of aping one song’s tune to fit a new one), and there are plenty of bands like Mumford & Sons that infuse rock into the mix for radio-friendly folk. But when the goal is genuine homage to the style, references to going “way out west” and gunslingers (“Diamond Bell”) just pile on clichés

Too much of Life in the Dark sounds like folk-by-numbers. The saving grace is that, even at their most playful, the Felice Bros infuse social commentary and observations of injustice (the backbone of all good folk) into their music. Along with “Dancing on the Wing,” “Plunder” represents the best of the album’s upbeat barn-stompers, but the acerbic lines “They say that only 80 men/ Own more than half the world/ I had a dream they spread it around/ I ended up in the mental ward” are what put it over the top.

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