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Volume 72, Issue 97, Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Life & Arts

Latest Apples album is a 'magnetic wonder'

by CHRISTIAN OCHOA 
The Daily Cougar 

While some indie rock bands avoid mainstream sounds as if it were a tie and suit, there are others that embrace the pop genre like a new pair of tight jeans. The Apples in Stereo latest album, New Magnetic Wonder, is pure pop, but pop well done. 

New Magnetic Wonder clocks in a little over 52 minutes with 24 tracks, many of which are just small vignettes used as transitions. The interesting thing about these small instrumentals is not the fact that they're quirky or multi-layered; it's that they were made using mathematics, too. 

After front man and composer Robert Schneider claimed he changed the standard of sound by taking it to a new octave using natural logarithms and mathematical equations, it's only fitting that many of the tracks have math references that only Lord of the Rings fans would get. 

The first single, "Energy," not only serves as a great catch for people who are unfamiliar with The Apples in Stereo, but serves as a microcosm for the whole album: Pop elements with an acoustic guitar, then suddenly shaking everyone to the core with brash guitar riffs, all wrapped around lyrics of a sunny disposition, like "The world is full of energy / and there's a lot inside of you / and a lot inside of me."

It's summertime for your ears: carefree, young and full of energy, setting the tone for the first half of the album.

"Can You Feel It," which opens with Schneider's new chord standard, is a four-minute guitar-driven power-pop ballad, including the cheesy lyrics: "Turn up your stereo," and "It makes you feel so good." The song ends with a clapping studio, an element that makes this song a caricature compared to the rest of the songs. 

Next is "Same Old Drag," a keyboard-heavy piece full of self-deprecating lyrics reminiscent of Ben Folds. "Sunndal Song," which is sung by ex-drummer and Schneider's ex-wife Hilarie Sidney, continues with the larger-than-life lyrics: "You circle me and try to pin me down," an apt metaphor for the album and The Apples in Stereo. 

There are more quirky and ambitious moments in the second half of New Magnetic Wonder. "7 Stars" follows with verses about cosmic bodies, not to mention the heavy use of the vocoder. It's distorted and lovely at the same time. 

The last standout in the album is the "Beautiful Machine" a four-song, seven-minute cycle that doesn't lose any of the album's ambition or focus. Instead, it serves as another example on how the band's sound is varied and circling. The listener might get a different reading on the band depending on what part of the cycle they start tuning into. 

The Apples have always straddled the line between electronica, bubble-gum pop and your standard indie rock full to the brim with great lyrics -- not bowing down and fitting one aspect over the others. 

Send comments to dcshobiz@mail.uh.edu

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