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Ivan And Alyosha: Love For The Lovable

A young Seattle duo with a moniker inspired by Dostoyevsky characters, Ivan and Alyosha -- whose real, less literary names are Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbary -- just released an utterly charming seven-song debut EP titled The Verse, The Chorus. On the surface, the duo's greatest gift is its charming, good-natured modesty: "Easy to Love," for example, chugs along simply and unassumingly while gathering up every scrap of goodwill a song can muster.

But there's more to "Easy to Love" than mere likeability. A propulsive, sweetly booming ode to love as a feat of endurance, the song lays out a matter-of-fact guide to surviving hard times -- "When the sky turns black / and we know it will from time to time" -- before it even gets to its simple but irresistible chorus. Wilson throws in a self-deprecating reference to the source of his past relationship woes: "I know you're good / You know I try most of the time." But "Easy to Love" really boils down to little more than the kind and clear notion that being in love, and staying in love, makes nothing seem insurmountable.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)