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The second album from the Brooklyn-based duo of Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly is an eclectic stew. If you form an impression just from the first couple of tracks (or by only listening once), you may think this is typical electronica, but listen to more tracks (and multiple times) and you’ll hear a much wider range of sounds and feelings flowing out of shifting combinations of electronics, guitar and bass.
The opening track (“Sidewalk Safari”) starts with a synth run that shifts in and out of key, but the song then turns into a fairly standard electronic tune. “Wrong Option,” the next track, continues the electronic feel, albeit with a throbbing bass line that takes it the next level. It really gets going with the third tune, “I Belong In Your Arms,” a rapid, driving, uplift of a song. This is a quality it shares with “Amanaemonesia” and “Met Before,” perhaps my favorite tune on this album. The band uses electronics to great effect on “Guilty as Charged” with a burst of keyboard sound accenting Polachek’s wistful voice.
This is music with a lot of heart, partly due to very careful and smart musical choices and partly due to Polachek’s breathy and expressive voice. She brings a note of soulfulness (notably on the quiet “Cold As a Fire” and the walking jazziness of “Ghost Tonight”), but she also has a high, delicate register that serves songs like “Frigid Spring” (a lovely lo-fi mood piece with a chiming and echoing guitar over simply strummed acoustic) or “Turning” well. The album ends with “Grown Up Blues” (a song that had me hearing Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac when it started), a lovely bit of pop fluff.
One drawback of the diversity is that the album occasionally sounds like a collection of singles, rather than an album. It doesn’t necessarily flow well from one tune to the next. But overall there’s more than enough strong material here to make this a worthwhile listen.