CLUB 8

Club 8

(Hidden Agenda/Parasol)

Swede-hearts

make gentle lovers' soundtrack; as effortless as Sunday afternoons in bed.

Romantic and creative partners Johan and Karolina

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CD Reviews

CLUB 8

Club 8

(Hidden Agenda/Parasol)

Swede-hearts

make gentle lovers' soundtrack; as effortless as Sunday afternoons in bed.

Romantic and creative partners Johan and Karolina hail from Sweden, the land of meatballs and IKEA. So far, their homeland's greatest musical exports (ABBA, Ace of Base) have been considered as light and expendable as that dirt-cheap, self-assembled modern furniture. Maybe that's why, relative to what they're up against, Club 8 need only a candle, not a klieg light, to shine so brightly. Whatever sprinkling of cred gently naughty popsters the Cardigans brought their countrymen, Club 8 extend—though they do it so delicately that cruder ears may miss their beauty. The twee melancholy of Belle & Sebastian is tempered here by a bittersweet gravitas and a penchant for stronger percussion. Their label describes the record as "the sound of hearts breaking," but really, it is more the sound of hearts searching, and as corny as that may sound, Club 8 has actually made the kind of melodic, lulling record that works equally well for the newly smitten and the recently, painfully single. From the aching "Love in December" to the quietly fierce "Falling From Grace," the pair have carved out nearly a dozen thoughtful, rainswept soundscapes that linger like fog banks in February. Despite a few moments that dip and sway into a sort of fey self-indulgence, they rescue themselves with a buoyant hopefulness that more often than not snaps the record out of its gummy emotional depths. Leah Greenblatt

NOONDAY UNDERGROUND

Self-Assembly

(Bar/None)

Former Adventures in Stereo member takes a different stroll down memory lane.

As a founding member of Adventures in Stereo, Simon Dine's '60s pop fixations were no secret. As the mastermind behind Noonday Underground, Dine continues to mine the sounds of that decade, but the focus has largely shifted from the Brian Wilson/Phil Spector orbit to a slightly more rough-hewn-mod-and-Northern-Soul sensibility. Self-Assembly's soul credentials are bolstered by the presence of vocalist Daisy Martey—a brassy siren who makes tracks like "London" and "When You Leave" swing—but Dine's keen ear and bouncy arrangements remain the album's most prominent features. On "Hello," he samples Stax-styled guitar, horn, and organ parts and lays them over big beats; it's eminently danceable, but the airy vocal effects sprinkled on top also give the track an almost ghostly feel. The same effect is used on several other tracks, along with a more plodding organ that brings Portishead to mind—though the outlook here stays sunny throughout (clearly, these are friendly ghosts). More than anything, Self-Assembly is a fun record—almost every track bubbles with thickly layered hooks delivered by Dine in authentic pop-sized bites (the longest track is under three and a half minutes). It may remind you of a simpler time, but Self-Assembly's modern spin will make you happy to be here and now. Paul Fontana

LAPTOP

The Old Me vs. the New You

(Trust Me)

Totally '80s synth-pop that makes you wonder, did the '90s even happen?

As the faux Brit brainiac behind the one-man band Laptop, New York's Jesse Hartman has already put out two ridiculously infectious full-lengths in 2001 and is currently prepping a third for release in February. Few acts could release three quality albums in under a year, but if his debut and its follow-up, The Old Me vs. the New You, are indications, then Hartman's got more than enough synth-pop tics and tricks up his sleeve to pull off one helluva triple whammy. Laptop's influences are obviously British—Gary Numan, Pet Shop Boys, Human League—but Hartman's charm isn't in his Casio keys and rubber-band beats so much as in his sneering and searing sense of humor. On this spring's Opening Credits, the ex-Richard Hell guitarist hilariously tossed off so many entertaining and smart-ass one-liners (see "I'm So Happy You Failed") that his retro-pop was anything but lost amid the recent surge of nostalgic nob noodlers looking to the '80s for inspiration. Thankfully, The Old Me is packed with more of the same Laptop charm, with Hartman dishing witty wisecracks over insidiously catchy electro-pop that—if the third time truly is a charm—hints at quite a treat to come in February. Jimmy Draper

RILO KILEY

Take Offs and Landings

(Barsuk)

Passengers traveling with freshly broken hearts should be sure to fasten their seat belts.

It seems Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis has a substantial fear of flying. Check the album title and artwork for beginners, but the evidence keeps coming. In "Wires and Waves," Lewis takes on a Breeders-esque lament and sings, "It's just my heart that gets rejected by my veins/sometimes planes they smash up in the sky/and sometimes lonely hearts, they just get lonelier," leaving the aerophobe and the lovelorn to ponder the connection, while rolling, early '90s guitar lines carry the conclusion on strong shoulders. Later, in "Plane Crash in C," Lewis' vocals take on a gentler tone as her band builds up to an Elephant 6-Lite march. The eventual demise is heralded by the sad refrain of a bold trumpet and Lewis' deduction that "Maybe I'm just stupid/for laughing at your jokes." It's obvious that Lewis and her co-conspirator Blake Sennett, who pipes up on a couple tracks, frequently traverse the bitter, heavy-hearted flight patterns of breakups and disappointments. Nothing new in the world of indie pop, that familiarity with the dour and downtrodden, but these Barsuk newcomers spin it nicely. Simultaneously evoking Karen Carpenter's alter ego, Liz Phair on prescription drugs, a straightforward version of Mates of State, and K Records' Mirah and her indie-pop foremothers, Rilo Kiley's second full-length fits squarely into your back pocket like the in-flight safety card. And may we suggest that you use the arty, lyric-filled liner notes as a flotation device? Laura Learmonth

 
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