The Polyphonic Spree
The Beginning Stages of ...
Led by ex-Tripping Daisy Tim DeLaughter, Dallas-based psychedelic gospel combo the Polyphonic Spree is not your average band. Crediting 23 members, packing its tunes with spiritual lyrics and clad in flowing white robes, the act have all the trappings of some mysterious long lost 1960s communal cult.
First released in demo form and distributed to fans during a holiday performance last year, the Spree's musically engaging and ethereal debut, The Beginning Stages of ..., is best described as a lo-fi choral-pop package that oozes warmth and joy.
In gathering together two dozen musical minds, DeLaughter has created an act that has the ability to combine the Beach Boys -- of the band's classic Pet Sounds days -- with melodies much like those of the less hard-drug soaked Flaming Lips.
However odd this combination may seem, the Spree's orchestral sounds prove to be some of the most euphoric, uplifting and joyful pop tunes one could imagine. The music is compelling and loquacious as well as addictive. In fact, it's an almost faultless debut.
With one exception. As gruesome on the ears as early experimental Tangerine Dream, the 30-minute A Long Day is a chilling combination of reverberating humming mixed with some rather nauseating electronic blips. All of which could be an indication of something more sinister lurking under the virgin-white starched robes of the happy-go-lucky Spree.
Apples in Stereo
Velocity of Sound
Graduates of the artsy-fartsy Sonic Youth school of punk rock, Colorado-based Apples in Stereo has dropped the pomp and weirdness and, instead, tuned to simple four-chord guitar-driven pop-punk for its latest release, Velocity of Sound.
The album -- the band's seventh studio venture since 1995 -- certainly lives up to its title. Spewing forth one caffeine buzz-drenched tune after another; it hurries along in a flurry of energetic riffs and nasal vocals reminiscent of Pete Shelley and the Buzzcocks. Like Shelley's compositions, the Apples' tunes are laid bare and all of the album's 11 tracks are minimalist verging on the fringes of lo-fi in some way or another.
Although now a four-piece band, vocalist Robert Schneider, with his whiny vocals, candid lyrics and simple pop-riffs is still the band's guiding-light. Ensuring that even at its most condescending and facetious the Apples remain a cheerful combo possessing an honesty and charm rarely found in pop/punk crossover circles.
While numbers such as Rainfall, That's Something I Do and Mystery are of the American hi-fi guitar-laced ilk, numbers like Better Days and She's Telling Lies see the Apple's in equally raucous, yet somewhat milder retro-60s mode. The fact the band was a contributing act to a recent album featuring tunes inspired by the movie, The Powerpuff Girls, could almost be forgotten. Velocity of Sound proves that Schneider and his cronies are an act that deserves to be taken seriously.
The Richest Man in Babylon
Lounge lizards and gurus of the dub driven mixing desk, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton -- aka the Thievery Corporation -- make a welcome return to record store shelves this month with the duo's fourth release, The Richest Man in Babylon.
Like its predecessors Sounds from the Thievery Hi-Fi, The Mirror Conspiracy and the EP, Lebanese Blonde, The Richest Man in Babylon is packed with dub-heavy, listless tunes which sees The Thievery Corporation blending Brazilian, Indian and Jamaican sounds with some truly laid back lounge vibes.