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The Ladybug Transistor 

The Ladybug Transistor

Wednesday, Oct 22 2003
Without any retro accouterments in its "look" or presentation (nary a hint of paisley, even), the Ladybug Transistor is a '60s-pop-rock fetishist's wet dream, recalling such un-trendy second- and third-tier wonders as the Cowsills, the Left Banke, and the Cryan' Shames, without being at all slavish about it. Vocals are shared by Gary Olson, who has a comforting, wise baritone, and Sasha Bell, with her slightly flat, girlish, innocence-lost alto; often they make for a charming, distinctive sweet-and-sour harmony. The band suggests the dark side of "sunshine pop": ornate, quasi-baroque song construction, emphasizing pretty melodies and close vocal harmonies, that conjures a cheery, sunny-day ambience with ominously dark storm clouds on the horizon (an American counterpart to Belle & Sebastian, if you will).

For this, its fifth studio effort, the LT journeyed to Arizona to be produced by Craig Schumacher (Calexico, Steve Wynn). With the judicious addition of pedal steel guitar and Brian Wilson-ish touches (such as the subtly wheezing bass-harmonica on "3 = Wild"), this self-titled gem stands proudly alongside the band's previous releases while expanding its palette a bit. The inspiration of the orchestrated songcraft of Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb looms over the proceedings: The cinematic "Song for the Ending Day," with its aching "Wichita Lineman"-type strings, rich Hammond organ, and wryly wistful crooned vocal, distills romantic yearning better than any song this year, sounding like an escapee from the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy or a Natalie Wood movie; elsewhere, there are South of the Border trumpets evoking the wide-open way to San Jose. The Ladybug Transistor takes you to a lonesome day where your only companions are a cup of hot chocolate, your favorite blanket, and deliciously bittersweet memories.

About The Author

Mark Keresman


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