With a name like Moon Taxi, the casual music fan might expect an electronica untz-fest that sounds better after midnight. Being so wrong rarely feels so right.

Cabaret is a refreshing effort that is earnest without succumbing to naïveté. “Mercury” begins the album in a rolling sonic wave, and the title track blends a tender chorus with easy-on-the-ears guitar work. “Hypnus” finds the band in its retro-80s new wave comfort zone, a space where the band clearly expresses nostalgic affection for the decade, but redeploys it in a way that sounds anything but derivative. “Hideaway” comes across as a firm nod to the Chili Peppers with a certain hop and Kiedis-esque vocal phrasing, while tracks like “Radio” feature dangerously catchy refrains (“It’s on the radio / It’s in my head”).

“Whiskey Sunsets” has a grin-inducing little guitar riff that recalls the old school Knight Rider theme song, and is balanced by kaleidoscopic work on the keys before finishing with dual guitars hitting the hippie hotspots on the higher end of the frets as the culminating chorus “I know that I’m gonna be up all night” provides an elegant finish. The “Wait, did they just do that?” moment of the album emerges on “Square Circles” that features Matisyahu spitting verses for the band.

Cabaret is one of those densely layered albums with enough going on to think it would sound spectacular on headphones. It’s difficult to pinpoint any must-hear tracks that shine above the others, but this band rolls deep, son! – after multiple listens, there really isn’t any filler to be had among the dozen songs that flow from one to the next with ease. Moon Taxi is a band that can really craft a song, understands arrangements and composition, and maintains artistic integrity despite its mainstream affability. It’s not much of a stretch to think these guys could blow up–touring this spring with Perpetual Groove and Galactic won’t hurt—and enjoy popular and critical success in 2012.

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