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Various Artists | Public Service Broadcast #7 (Smalltown America)
This, the seventh in an ongoing series of compilations, brings together the unsigned and those on the cusp of greatness—often the bands on display are both. Musically the mix takes a preference for angled guitars and pure pop, and there’s a wealth of these here, most notably Neat People, who combine fizzy guitar lines with a love of Jackson 5 and Ben Folds Five. It’s a pleasant change to hear such unabashed pop arranged with evident intelligence, as shouts are welded into lush harmonies and fidgeting guitar lines wriggle toward each other, combining to thread a thick blanket of sound. Le Reno Amps plough three-part harmonies into Beatles-esque chord changes and some Billy Bragg observations, combining it all in a series of ebbing verses and bouncy choruses, whereas Dragonflies Draw Flames find a midway point between pure melody and a world of distortion. The result is a series of propulsive and emotive vocal refrains, flitting toward emo music, but always kept back from the genre by a subtlety of melody and tone, plus mandolin solos and a gentleness of touch. Probably the most unabashed contribution is Oppenheimer’s play-school-pop track, Breakfast In NYC. Recently signed to US label Bar/None, the music is filled with wide-eyed xylophones, rudimentary drum machine beats, Vocoder vocal lines and squelching synths. It’s playful without being twee, and as a song compact and punchy.
The compilers of this release show an eagle eared appreciation of good music, be it loud or soft, serious or slight, every track holds its own and displays its facets proudly. A compilation of note at the close of 2005.