City Center is the sort of band I could really dig--the Brooklyn-based duo make jangly, dingy pop songs--if I'd ever heard of them before. You'd think they'd have a greater following in the indie realm, since both band members, Fred Thomas and Ryan Howard were members of now-defunct experimental pop outfit Saturday Looks Good to Me. But until the digital release of their Zen Kids 7-inch through the K Recs Zip-Pak this week, City Center has only released one full-length to date: a self-titled album on the UK label Type Records. Otherwise, most of their music is only available on self-released singles and 7-inches, and a few cassettes and mixtapes. (And, of course, on their MySpace page and blog.)
Zen Kids is an example of what K Recs does best: take a great but possibly weird band and spin that music into indie gold. As a song, "Zen Kids" is a controlled mess of garage guitars and vocal harmonies; there are shades of MGMT's pop appeal in this song, but the lyrics are dark, strange, and about death. For the full effect of the song's strangeness, Selector Dub Narcotic (that's producer Calvin Johnson) completely remixes the song into a trance-y composition, heavy on echoes. (That remix will be also available on the vinyl 7-inch.) Add in the Zip-Pak subscriber-only add-ons--a video and two songs, one of which is wholly instrumental--and Zen Kids that will appeal to both pop sensibilities and the taste for experimental music. As a Zip-Pak release, City Center epitomizes the purpose of the singles club: get people listening to these off-the-beaten-path bands and turn at least one new subscriber (me) into a fan.