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The Apples In Stereo – New Magnetic Wonder

April 30, 2007

I’m not familiar with any other albums by The Apples In Stereo, but I don’t doubt that this is really their best album yet like so many people are saying. It has apparently been five years since their last release, making this a very pleasant surprise for a lot of people who probably expected that the band was not going to make another album. Just a little background information, The Apples In Stereo were one of the three prime bands to come out of the miniature movement of the Elephant Six “label,” the other two bands being Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control. These people with the Elephant Six mindset probably would have been better off making music thirty years earlier than they did, and unfortunately they were in obscurity for most of their careers and didn’t get much radio play. But all of these bands had the same focus, to travel, meet new friends, have fun, and make great folk rock. To say that any of these bands were truly important or not pretentious would be a lie, but it would also be a lie to say that they were not all great. I’m probably not going to go on a huge five paragraph tangent like I usually do rambling about how great this album is, because when I do that, I repeat myself. I’m just going to keep writing this paragraph until I end, and that will be that. What stood out to me first with this album is how freaking long it is. What feels like about half of the album consists of little half minute blurbs of interesting melodic sound that kind of build on what the rest of the album has to say in their quaint little ways. These little filler tracks are the subject of the creative minds of many bands and many people seem to think they thin out the entire experience, when really they do not do anything negative. To me, filler is when a song was included that should not have been included because it was just bad in comparison to the rest of the stuff. If a track is that small, I don’t think that really merits calling filler. I call those tracks “treats.” And the treats here are fairly delicious. After all, if you are not going to be given a full eighty minutes of pure pop bliss, you would at least rather have interesting treats than silence. Just because this album is twenty four tracks long doesn’t mean it is not a muscular release. The songs do not really lose any momentum throughout the disk, which is interesting, because one would think this would be a hard kind of style to keep up. The style is, and bear with me here, kind of like Oasis but better. The problem I had with Oasis albums like Definitely Maybe were that the style did not really switch up at all and it got dull after thirty minutes. What The Apples In Stereo do is spice up every song with unique sounds and production and not just make every song the same feeling with a different hook like Oasis did. Thus, this album is infinitely more interesting and surprising upon further listen than anything from the brit-pop era. There are also explosions of psychedelia floating all over the place, and at times this sounds startlingly like The Beatles if The Beatles were not constrained by their style at any given time. The album art is just crazy. It reminds me of a book I read when I was a kid called Animalia. It is kind of like stepping into a big, colorful time machine, and in that way it might be some kind of vague off-kilter throw back to some Santana or Beatles album covers. Standout tracks are not rare. My favorites are the opening Can You Feel It?, Energy, Sunday Sounds, and the lovely Beautiful Machine cycle. My complaints about this album are pretty much that there is not enough of great things, which I suppose means that some songs are better than others, but when you do as many great things as this album does, staying perfect is not to be expected. I’m juggling between whether I think this is the best album of the year or not. It is definitely very good, but it has The Shins and Explosions In The Sky to measure up to, both of which I love. I think this is an album that will require some further listening, but indie rock fans will really want this. I picked it up on pure speculation and I sure wasn’t disappointed. Psychedelic folk rock by a band that has saved up ideas for five years? Yeah, go for it.

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