Friday, December 19, 2008

Sweet Apples

It was a few years ago when I started listening to The Apples in Stereo. The band is associated with the famous lo-fi/indie pop collective Elephant 6 that I definitely wish to explore further. I’ve already checked out some material from Beulah and Of Montreal (I also remember listening to a couple of songs by The Olivia Tremor Control), but there are also many other interesting bands to listen to. The collective is big, so I believe there is a whole lot of fun ahead of me – fun and quirkiness. The bands that I’ve already listened to have all proved to be quite unique.

The first Apples in Stereo album that I properly listened to was New Magnetic Wonder (2007). At the time it was the group’s latest. Once I got around to listening to it several times it started showing promise, and it didn’t take long before I start enjoying Robert Schneider’s wild ELO-like backing vocal effects and energetic, upbeat songs. The vocal effects are airy and magnificent, and usually successful. There is a moment or two when the vocal effects are slightly OTT but it’s not such a big sin.

Can You Feel It? and Same Old Drag are examples of successful vocal effect experiments. Both songs are also very catchy. Energy is a hit. It sounds like a mixture of Oasis and Electric Light Orchestra, and probably something else too. Hilarie Sidney who has since left the group provided New Magnetic Wonder with a couple of good tracks: Sunndal Song and Sunday Sounds. Play Tough is a beautiful melody, definitely reminds of The Left Banke’s Walk Away Renee. In the end of the album there are a couple of very grandiose songs: Open Eyes and Non-Pythagorean Composition Pts. 3-4 – perhaps not personal favourites but definitely not bad either.

The album’s biggest problem is the huge number of instrumental interlude tracks. Many people have already stated how unsuccessful the idea of placing them all around the album is. I guess everyone would still agree on the fact that once you’ve removed the interlude tracks from your playlist or mp3 player, New Magnetic Wonder works well as an album. It’s probably best listening to those instrumental tracks separately.

There was a long pause between New Magnetic Wonder and its predecessor Velocity of Sound (2002) which is also one sweet album. While New Magnetic Wonder is ELO-oriented Velocity of Sound sounds like Weezer. It’s clear right from the first moment of Please. Although the album easily brings Weezer to mind with its loud, distorted guitars, it’s not geeky – at least in the same way as Weezer.

One of the absolutely coolest things about The Apples in Stereo is Robert Schneider’s voice. There’s definitely some good nasal vibe there, and the way he makes himself sound like a 6-year-old.. It’s simply amazing - and really sweet. There are many moments on Velocity of Sound album when Schneider’s vocals blow my mind. That’s Something I Do and Do You Understand? are wonderful, as well as Please. Baroque is also brilliant. There is not much baroque instrumental quality but one melodic part definitely is baroque! Another really cool track is Yore Days, a song in which the album’s vocal style suddenly turns completely different.

This band has made many albums and EPs – I don’t even know how many.. They’ve also released a new creation quite recently. It’s called Electronic Projects For Musicians.

The Apples in Stereo at MySpace

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