Illustration from Quips and Quiddits, Ques for the Qurious by John Banister Tabb, 1907
One of my favorite boy-girl indie-pop combos, the Brunettes, have a new record, Paper Dolls, out on Lil Chief Records. Lil Chief is a New Zealand label, though, and I think this record may not get a US release until next year. Release dates are slippery things these days, though - you can order the new Brunettes from the Lil Chief webstore for a very reasonable price, so I'm thinking of this as a 2009 release. Of course, this would be a non-issue, except that I'm obsessing over my "Best of 2009" list right now. And Paper Dolls is good enough to make the list.
Apart from a couple songs that retread ideas and themes done better way back on their first record Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks ("The Crime Machine" is to "Mafioso" as "Bedroom Disco" is to "Dancefloor"), but it is otherwise a very solid batch of electric indie-pop. They keep some of the ambitious song structures they were working with on 2007's Structure and Cosmetics, but I think they work better here. The three song stretch of "Connection", "It's Only Natural", and "Magic (No Bunny)" is as good as anything I've heard by the Brunettes, and Jonathan Bree's baritone voice (always reminiscent of the Ladybug Transistor's Gary Olson) provides a nice contrast to Heather Mansfield's bell-clear soprano as always. The '60s pop touches the Brunettes were originally known for are becoming less pronounced with each album they do, but the band's classic pop sensibilities are arguably more interesting when paired with the band's recent preference for sterile-sounding electro arrangements.
One of the best songs on the album is the closing track, "Thank You", and it's also an appropriate Thanksgiving song, with lyrics like, "It's amazing how fortunate we've been." Like many of the songs on Paper Dolls, the song is about the experience of being a musician on the road, but it's the best Thanksgiving song I could think of on short notice, so work with me on this.
"Thank You" by the Brunettes