Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Ghost of Brian
Wilson Lingers

The Ladybug Transistor,
Can't Wait Another
Day, Merge Records

In theory, I like this New York combo as I'm a fan of baroque pop—you know, artfully-arranged popular music with brass
and strings. Progenitors include the Three Bs: Burt Bacharach, the Beatles, the Beach Boys...and anything touched by the hand of Brian Wilson associate Van Dyke Parks.

Featuring contributions from such esteemed guests as the Aislers Set, Architecture in Helsinki, the Clientele,
and Roy Nathanson (the Jazz Passengers
), The Ladybug Transistor's fifth full-length fits that description to a T.

Unfortunately, I can't get past Gary Olson's somewhat wooden voice. I tried, but I just couldn't do it. If the music were louder
or his vocals quieter, it might not bother me so much, but they're front and center on every track, except for "Here Comes the Rain"—consequently, my favorite song on the album.

Maybe if Olson were a tenor. The baritone in pop is a tricky thing. I dig Scott Walker, but he's a one-of-a-kind. He doesn't talk-sing, like Lou Reed. In his younger days, he belted it out, and he had the pipes to pull it off. I enjoyed the rest of Can't Wait Another Day, but it mostly makes me want to listen to London labelmates the Clientele for a dose of the baroque graced with some truly exquisite tenor vocals (especially on their early records).

Silver Sun, Dad's Weird Dream,
Hands Music [7/3/07]

Not to be confused with California's Silversun Pickups, Silver Sun hails from the UK (specifically Walthamstow). Like the Ladybug Transistor they also appear to have been influenced by the Beach Boys. James Broad even sings like Brian Wilson, except his band rocks harder (faster tempos, blasts of feedback, etc.).

While listening to their latest record, I was also reminded of Cheap Trick and Adam & the Ants—maybe even a little Romantics. Dad's Weird Dream,which was produced by Nigel Godrich (Radiohead), isn't a full-on New Wave flashback; it's a mid-Atlantic synthesis of punk-pop, '70s style stadium rock, and a hint of glam. According to the All Music Guide, they're big in Japan—guess they really are following in Cheap Trick's footsteps.

Endnote: The title is a reference to Spoon's "The Ghost of You Lingers." Not so coincidentally, Britt Daniel is one of my favorite vocalists. Coincidentally, his quartet records for Merge. The Ladybug Transistor plays the Crocodile Café on 8/7. For more information about LT, please see their official website (at which you can listen to the entire record). Incidentally, here's Splendid's take on a Ladybug Transistor/Clientele throwdown:

Labelmates duke it out over which act is the spiffest bunch of folkies to ever grace the hallowed Merge roster. One trots out Simon and Garfunkel, the other the Left Banke. The storm clouds
are forming when that bloke out of Clientele produces a copious amount of ganja and the whole crew gets spliffed outta their minds and discusses why Nick Drake's
Pink Moon was, in truth,
a more complete work than
Five Leaves Left.

For more information about Silver Sun, please see their official website or their MySpace Page. The Ladybug Transistor image swiped from their website (James William Hindle credited).

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