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Testa Rosa

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Every once in a while an album comes along that makes one really sit up and take notice, a disc full of surprises, that leaves listeners thoroughly charmed. Meet Testa Rosa, a Milwaukee trio whose self-titled debut album harks back to an earlier age, yet is lit with slyly modern wit, twists, and turns. And brilliantly so on "Ollie & Delilah," where the band evokes post-punk gloom rock, synth pop, and the new romantics in swift succession — that is, before the melody kicks in and the song sweeps into perfect '60s pop. While the genres swirl about, Betty Blexrud-Strigens sweetly sings of two lovers, who are soon revealed to be a contemporary Bonnie & Clyde. It's brilliant, and even more evocative, when she delivers the lyrics in German later in the set. However, girl groups and such '60s stars as Dusty Springfield obviously provide much of the inspiration for the vocals on this set. Although the trio sports only one female member, the harmonies and melodies still echo with the likes of the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las. On "Easy for You to Say," Blexrud-Strigens sounds positively angelic, and absolutely heavenly as well on the harmony-washed "Arms of a Tree," but she has a tough side, too, best heard on "Hollow Arm." Elsewhere, her gorgeous vocals spill across a dreamy pop number like "Book About Clouds" and float over "Rostock," a glamorous guitar and piano piece that eventually reaches majestic heights. "Illubye," in contrast, is a lullaby gone bad, with a country tinge and scary lyrics of a love so obsessive it's smothering. "Hollow Arm" is just as thematically creepy, but set to a rousing rockabilly backing. And that's the beauty of this album: the unexpected genre twists, embracing styles as far afield as British Invasion and even '70s-styled power ballads. But regardless of the genre, Blexrud-Strigens haunts the songs with lyrics that are never quite what you expect, least of all the anti-cheer Christmas song, a hidden bonus track that concludes the disc. The sound throughout this set is absolutely exquisite; every note sung and played within seems to glow, the production and mix creating the most luminescent of albums, like an aural pearl. Blindingly beautiful.

Testa Rosa, Testa Rosa
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