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Finishing School | Destination Girl (Track and Field)
Wherein the prolific Sasha Bell takes time out from her duties with The Essex Green and The Ladybug Transistor to go it alone, albeit under the guise of Finishing School. Recorded primarily in Sweden with Tomas Hakava, who doubles up on guitar and bass duties, at home in Brooklyn with fellow Ladybug Gary Olson and in London's RMS Studios. Jeff Baron (Essex Green, Ladybug) lends a musical hand, San Fadyl (also Ladybug) is at the drum-kit and James William Hindle repays a favour by singing back-up on Silent Space.
But it's Bell's keyboards and equally distinctive vocals (reminiscent of early Natalie Merchant without the political baggage) that shine brightest through the deceptively layered arrangements. Thirty crammed minutes of pop bliss, these nine songs cover a wide yet cohesive spectrum of sounds from the oom-pah-pah retroism of Day Is Over (you half expect Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang to fly past your window) to the Carpenters-esque ballad Morning Light via a wealth of upbeat gems, not least opener Reno which echoes the impeccable Our Lady In Havana (from The Essex Green's 'The Long Goodbye') and the orchestral title track (and obvious single) featuring lyrics from The Lucksmiths' Tali White.
The album is accompanied by a DVD which sees Destination Girl acted out on Super 8 (authentically muted colours of course) with a lovesick werewolf (don't ask), and the bizarre promo for the psych-tinted Hair (imagine a low-budget Ashes to Ashes with llamas!), plus a making-of/photo gallery/interview collage (to a soundtrack of album closer Page 16) and live renditions of New Sensation and Morning Light featuring Baron and Julia Rydholm (also of The Ladybug Transistor). This is one school you'll be happy to return to time and again.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003