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Travellers in Space and Time

The Apples In Stereo

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Album Review

In the three years since the release of New Magnetic Wonder, something strange happened to the Apples in Stereo's Robert Schneider as he was writing songs and plotting for the group’s seventh album, Travellers in Space and Time. Maybe he accidentally caught Xanadu late at night on cable, maybe someone slipped an ELO song onto a mixtape, or maybe he caught a disco oldie while flipping across the radio dial, but no matter where it came from, suddenly the Apples’ main goal in life is re-creating the sound, feel, and magic of ELO and Olivia Newton-John's “Xanadu.” Schneider and the group (which includes Elephant 6 mainstay Bill Doss and a bunch of guys who can do just about anything, including contribute some fine songs to the track list) layer vocoders, disco strings, wacky synths, and pulsing dancefloor beats into their trademark bubblegum indie and come up with an album that will surprise a lot of people. It’s still recognizably an AIS record, there’s no mistaking Schneider's wispy vocals, and there are quite a few songs that chug merrily along like vintage Apples. The preponderance of hooks, too, is trademarked. Still, the new trappings make Travellers sound like the work of a band with a renewed energy, and the joy they put into making it comes out of the speakers like a wave of love and happiness. The only problem people might have with this sea change is if they don’t like ELO. If that’s the case, it’s true that you’ll probably dislike Travellers at first, but if you stick with it, you’ll see that beneath all the glitter and goop, there are some really great songs. For example, you’d be hard-pressed to find a sweeter love song than "No One in the World," a catchier pop song than "Told You Once," or a better arranged song than "It’s All Right." There are songs to dance to ("Dance Floor," "Nobody But You"), songs perfect for headphone reveries ("Floating in Space"), and even a rocked-out track ("Dignified Dignitary") that sounds like an outtake from New Magnetic Wonder. Basically, the album plays out like hit song after hit song. Love or hate the new direction, the Apples have made a long, long career out of constantly changing and reliably creating songs and albums that overflow with hooks and happiness. This may be their hookiest, happiest album yet. You don’t have to be an ELO fanatic to agree with that.

Biography

Formed: 1993 in Denver, CO

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Sunny pop band the Apples in Stereo were one of the leading lights of the Elephant 6 Recording Company collective, a coterie of likeminded lo-fi indie groups — including the Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Secret Square — who shared musicians, ideas, and sensibilities. They were led by singer/songwriter Robert Schneider, a native of the tiny town of Ruston, LA, also home to Jeff Mangum (later of Neutral Milk Hotel) as well as William Cullen Hart and Bill Doss (who formed...
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