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Letters Letters

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Album Review

The debut album from this trio, itself a bit of a combination of the duos Désormais and Avia Gardner, finds the group asking a good question — "What if goofy quirk pop was shot through with sometimes grimy noise?" In and of itself, this isn't a sudden break from the musical past, especially since a variety of noise artists (widely defined) have long shown a fascination with dinky arrangements on cheap keyboards and guitars. But Letters Letters actually put those arrangements at the heart of their songs, which is why opening number "Favorite Hands" may start with feedback howling but shifts into the kind of sweet sonic merriment that the Postal Service made respectable again, or at least more widely selling. From there the trio, with Tony Boggs taking the singing lead, performs songs with simple, near-minimal elements while constantly tweaking with the moods, either overlaying other parts in an off-kilter collage or completely undercutting them with seemingly random noises (though many times what seems random ends up forming a new counter-melody or rhythm). As a result, it resists classification just enough, in the best way — nobody would mistake this for a Boards of Canada album, say, but it's not "just" a pop album either, despite some extremely straightforward melodies and vocal performances. Acoustic guitars take the lead on "We'll Make Our Home" but with all kinds of odd swirls and cascades in the background, while the instrumentals "Iron Mountain" and "In a Way" are wonderful exercises in rhythm, getting more complicated as they go while never losing a straightforward punch. When Jenna Robertson steps up to the lead mike, everything often sounds more strangely sad and desperate, an interesting shift best heard on "Everyone's Afraid of Fear," with her vocals eventually accompanying only a steady drum machine punch.

Letters Letters, Letters Letters
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