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You Win Again Gravity

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Album Review

For all of the attention paid to electro-clash albums in 2002, most of them did not, in fact, sound much like the pioneering early-'80s synth pop artists that were their supposed inspiration. On the other hand, the third album by Vitesse confirms the New York-via-Nashville duo's place alongside Future Bible Heroes, the Rondelles, and other indie-era revivalists of the halcyon days of Factory Records. Joshua Klein and Hewson Chen sound as if they've memorized every note of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's Architecture & Morality and the first couple of Talk Talk albums, but alongside the note-perfect re-creation of the analog-synths-and-Linn-drums years, the duo shows a gift for wistful minor-key melodies and the sort of memorable hooks that would have garnered some decent airplay on MTV back in the day. The dreamy "Out Under Stars," with its chattering keyboard riff, is a particular gem, but all of these brief songs (16 in just over 50 minutes) have much to recommend them, particularly Klein's warm, throaty voice, which sounds like Stephin Merritt minus the deadpan irony, and the clever all-synth arrangements, which manage the neat trick of sounding as if they could have been recorded in 1981 without feeling dated in the least. The capper is a surprisingly effective ambient synth cover of Hüsker Dü's "Green Eyes" with guest vocals by Celeste Alexander, a ravishingly gorgeous close to a truly lovely album.


Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Indie synth-pop duo Vitesse teamed keyboardists Hewson Chen and Josh Klein, the latter a former drummer with the band Toulouse as well as a staff writer with the cult-favorite weekly paper The Onion. The duo first collaborated in 1997 on a piece for their Intro to Music Composition class at the University of Chicago; as Vitesse, they recorded their debut LP A Certain Hostility over the course of some 36 hours in late 1998, releasing the album on the Hidden Agenda label the following spring. A year...
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