The South Carolina band Jump, Little Children has endured an unfairly star-crossed career, its momentum slowed by everything from poor timing—its excellent 1998 debut, Magazine, came out on Hootie And The Blowfish's vanity label the moment Hootie-mania subsided—to its awful moniker. The name "Jump, Little Children" recently became the less awful but instantly forgettable "Jump," but the group's musical quality control remains intact on Between The Dim & The Dark, another polished, winning collection of warm, stirring pop.

Scaling back the epic sweep and U2-sized ambition of 2001's Vertigo (recorded with a major-label budget, then released independently), Jump invests Between The Dim & The Dark with a low-key breeziness that serves the band well. With singer Jay Clifford employing far less of his formidable vocal range than he did on Vertigo, the new disc sounds more straightforward and less showy at every turn, sticking primarily to sweetly unassuming ballads ("Mexico") and insistently hooky pop songs like "Rains In Asia."

Advertisement

Though it lacks Vertigo's grand scale or a peak on par with Magazine's timeless "Cathedrals"—and "Education" sounds slick to the point of bloodlessness—Between The Dim & The Dark should further Jump's small-scale reputation as an alternate-universe hitmaker that gives better than it gets. (www.jumphq.com)