(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, July 1, 2011

CD review - Rubblebucket, Omega La La (2011)

Rubblebucket fills their latest, Omega La La, with cheery naiveté. Despite the heavy indie pop veneer, they have a healthy primitivism. This fills the album with a quirky outsider vibe that recalls the Sugarcubes. Sure, Kalmia Traver sounds nothing like Björk and Rubblebucket's sound is more anchored by a dance pop aesthetic. But they share a playfulness and ability to build a song out of the most prosaic beginnings. Like the Sugarcubes, part of the magic comes from the horns, which are more pronounced in Rubblebucket's sound.

Omega La La kicks off with Down in the Yards which sets a back and forth beat like a playground swing. Full of loopy bits, the layering never gets top heavy. The unison male/female pairing has a sing-song feel. The innocent, poppy sound revolves around that initial back and forth flow.

More on the squirrelly side, Came Out of a Lady juxtaposes bizarre lyrics against a solid pop drive. Traver's phrasing here is what triggered the Sugarcubes connection: the odd cadence reminded me of Einar Örn Benediktsson. Despite the misheard lyric ("You came out of a lady hole"), it's a redemptive pop number at its roots.

My favorite track was the darkest sounding track: Lifted/Weak Arms. With a longer running time, it has time to develop from the orchestral horn and bass beginning, moving from vaguely jazzy to more complex interactions. It's reflective and the vocals feel slightly detached. A counterpoint forms between the arpeggio guitar and bass and the looser horn grooves. The song evolves to let a beautiful, underwater keyboard slide into the guitar's place while an arty vocal delivery keeps the unmoored feel. This easy flowing vibe recalls the mellow Zappa sound of Outside Now (Joe's Garage (Actts II & III)). With a sudden flip, the tense threatening bridge kicks in with a King Crimson edge. It's a sharp change from the rest of the album, but Rubblebucket manages a fairly complex evolution in this song, maintaining continuity.

A more representative nice track is Breatherz (Young as Clouds), with its shimmer guitar and pop-soul horns. The vocals are strong and assertive, even as they flow with a looser rhythm. Here, Traver's voice sounds more like the B-52s. A subtle bass line complements the sequenced keys that drive the pop sound.

Omega La La is a promising offering. The pop quirkiness is both inside and outside at the same time. Turn it up and dance along with some homemade sangria (made with a tart red wine).

(Another taste: Silly Fathers, with its Tom Tom Club vibe)

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