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The Ladybug Transistor

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Album Review

Ladybug Transistor's fourth album is the band's first to be recorded outside its own Marlborough Farms studio. They packed up and split to Arizona of all places to work with Calexico producer Craig Schumacher. Their delicate, Baroque, citified chamber pop sound remains fully intact; the only trace of the desert is the occasional pedal steel guitar. The band seems to have shaken off the doldrums that lightly plagued its previous record, 2001's disappointing Argyle Heir, coming up with a killer batch of songs that are catchy and involving. The best aspects of the band are strongly in place: Gary Olson's trembling son-of-Hazlewood baritone; the wonderful arrangements full of chiming guitars, baritone harmonica, burbling organs, lush horns and strings, and perfectly played piano; as well as their secret weapon, the sweet voice of Sasha Bell, which provides a blinding flash of sunshine when it appears (as on her lilting "The Places You'll Call Home") and is a perfect balance to the unremitting gloom of Olson's. There are songs here that will certainly end up on their "best-of" record: the heartbreaking string-laden ballad "Song for an Ending Day," the hard-rocking (by their standards) road song "Hangin' on the Line," the cover of Jackie DeShannon's "Splendor in the Grass" (which absolutely shimmers with jangly perfection), and the hooky "In December" (which features a breathtaking middle section in which the horns and strings go all Technicolor). The Ladybug Transistor is a return to form for the band and is right up there with its best work. That ranks it right up there as some of the best pop music being made today.


Formed: 1994 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Led by vocalist/guitarist Gary Olson, a onetime string stretcher and key inspector at his family's piano factory, indie pop unit the Ladybug Transistor debuted in 1996 with the LP Marlborough Farms, titled after Olson's Brooklyn-area home recording studio. After a lineup change that left only Olson and drummer Edward Powers remaining from the Ladybug Transistor's original roster, Saturnine guitarist Jennifer Baron and her bassist brother Jeff were recruited prior to recording 1997's Beverly Atonale,...
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The Ladybug Transistor, The Ladybug Transistor
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