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No One Will Know

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Album Review

Bella is a trio from Vancouver that does a neat little bit of mixing and matching on their first record for Mint, No One Will Know, and ends up with an instantly recognizable, completely enjoyable sound. They aren't the only band around that operates using some combination of squelchy old synths, new wave-inspired rhythms, New Order-y basslines, angular indie rock guitars, and indie pop sweet vocals. There are quite a few in Sweden (Suburban Kids with Biblical Names, the Legends, Vapnet), a couple in Canada (Immaculate Machine, the Gay), and a handful in the U.S. and elsewhere (Tilly and the Wall, the Rentals, Architecture in Helsinki) that come to mind, but Bella does it so well, it feels like they're the first to ever try it. What makes them special is their perfect balance of melancholy and sweetness, of simplicity and unpredictability. The lyrics are the melancholy part, dealing with snowy days, sleeping alone, that good old standby heartbreak, lousy apartments, and rotten dreams. Never too mopey or personal, they pack a punch using a few keywords and phrases. The voices are the sweetness; both drummer Tiffany Garrett Sotomayor and keyboardist Charla McCutcheon have angelic voices that blend in perfect harmony and soar shyly on their own. They also sing everything very straight with absolutely no excess technique, letting the melody and the words impart the emotion. The starkness of their voices and harmonies really hits hard on the album's slow ballads "Settle Down" and "No One Will Know." Bassist/guitarist Cameron Fraser handles the vocals on a couple songs, and though his voice is more impassioned, it fits well with the girls' harmonies and gives the band and album another dimension. The simplicity of the record's arrangements works well in the group's favor, again letting the melodies and vocals breathe. The unpredictability from song to song as to the components of each arrangement keeps things interesting since the band uses a different synth sound, guitar tone, or drumming style on just about every track. Of course, without songs to fill the excellent arrangements, they are just empty window dressing. No problem there; Bella has the songs. The best on the album ("Give It a Night," "Camelot," "Don't Sleep Alone," and "Didn't Mean to Break Our Love") are as good as any pop, indie or otherwise, in 2007. Bella may not be reinventing the wheel on No One Will Know, but if you are a fan of indie pop, you simply have to have this record in your collection.

No One Will Know, Bella
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