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Songs from Yes and No

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Album Review

It would be much easier to relax and enjoy Andy Ditzler's hip, intelligent, sometimes provocative, and often simply beautiful songwriting if it didn't sound like he were constantly trying to convince you of his hipness and intelligence. Sounding like a three-way cross between a cabaret act, a grad-school version of Ben Folds, and a 21st century update on Laurie Anderson's ironic pop culture whimsy, Ditzler is at his best when he puts the music front and center and at his worst when he's showing off his hip erudition. Buddhism comes up repeatedly during the program (though not, to his credit, without humor), and on "Economics" he offers a primer in basic economic principles that is probably supposed to be cute but comes off sounding condescending. On "What Language Is That," however, his dense instrumentation includes no fewer than three turntablists and the result is brilliant; "Citizens" combines chilly electronica with a warm and lovely string arrangement, and "Manifesto" is a drop-dead perfect instrumental featuring drums, bass, saxophone, and two sets of turntables. For now, he sounds like the house band for This American Life, but Ditzler shows enormous promise on this album, and will bear watching in the future.

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