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Album Review

San Francisco duo Scrabbel's self-titled debut finds #Poundsign#'s Becky Barron teaming up with Dan Lee to craft crisp, dreamy twee pop that is so laid-back and effortless that it almost begs to be overlooked. Sweet girl/boy vocals combine with clean guitars, keyboards, and assorted percussion and other instruments to make music that exists in the same realm as groups like the Rosa Chance Well, Kahimi Karie, Ethnobabes, Luna, and Shebrews. Music that is easy to overlook, but will reward those with the patience to pay attention. Pop for indie kids who think Mates of State are a little too rockin'. Scrabbel's brand of dreamy, airy, lite techno jazz would be perfectly at home among the acts on France's MiniTenor label or Britain's Dreamy. An album highlight, "Pillowmint," is driven by a jangly acoustic guitar line that at first calls to mind the Counting Crows' "Mr. Jones," but quickly morphs into a coy, '60s-inspired lounge pop piece whose playful tone and cooing vocals make it seem to be the perfect backing track for a Volkswagon commercial. Sporadic sounds of ray guns and various computer blips and bleeps notwithstanding, "Robot Song" proudly displays the group's Beatles affinity (like a more low-key "Strawberry Fields"). Making something extraordinary of the everyday, "25" comes in to show the group's personality a little more, with lyrics like, "Everyday I'm at my desk/She emails jokes and telephones the rest/All in all it's not so bad/But office life just makes me sad." A pop gem. With a few charming exceptions, Scrabbel's biggest shortcoming is that they don't cut loose enough to make any sort of lasting impression. While the songs are all well-played and arranged and the vocals are sweet and dreamy, things are almost too well put together. Everything is nice and neat, and as a result it's hard to connect to any strong emotions from the record. The vocals are almost never overcome with any sort of feeling and, in turn, the record just sort of floats gently out of the speakers, relegating itself to innocuous background music rather than something that demands the listener's attention. All of this is unfortunate, because on repeated listening, it is clear that Scrabbel has a lot to offer, and the songs paint lovely pictures with their lyrics and instruments if the listener will just be hooked long enough to really give them a chance (as with "Peel Down the Road"). ~ Karen E. Graves, Rovi


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

The San Francisco-based project Scrabbel make knotty-yet-breezy, wry-yet-whimsical indie pop tunes. In their moodier moments they bring to mind Mates of State and American Analog Set, and in their spun-sugariest moments they conjure up Tiger Trap and Heavenly. Dan Lee and #poundsign#'s Becky Barron teamed up to form Scrabbel in 1999, and the duo made their live debut alongside the Aislers Set at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival the following year. Scrabbel's self-titled...
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