Starting back in 2001 this electro-pop trio from the tiny hamlet of Shutesbury, Massachusetts, released three EPs of pleasant but unremarkable sequencer-informed indie rock. Then they moved to Brooklyn, signed to the electronica label Ghostly International, and earlier this year put out the outstanding five-song City vs Country EP--an eminently likable blend of percolating synths, catchy vocal melodies, chronographic guitar strumming, and slamming live drums. The songs are essentially pop rock, but they're structured like club tracks, which lets the band get a lot of extra mileage out of its material: rather than leap from verse to chorus, they flow from one to the other in a series of small additive or subtractive steps. And unlike most robot-in-an-anorak indietronica, City vs Country benefits from a juicy, aggressive production job. "Multiply" evolves from a chilly digital pulse a la the Postal Service to an organic rock catharsis that sounds like Interpol getting about as sweaty as they ever do, and the title track comes across a bit like the Pastels tricked out big-70s style by Roy Thomas Baker and then diced up by Lee "Scratch" Perry. The band's subsequent full-length debut, The Loving Sounds of Static, is more understated, with slightly less insinuating hooks--though the songs work as tuneful electronica, they just miss the mark as pop. But City vs Country still dominates my most-played list six months after the disc's release--it seems to be appropriate for almost any situation I or my iPod encounter. Venue and the Prairie Cartel DJs open; the Mobius Band also shares a bill with headliners Prefuse 73 on Thursday, September 15, at the Abbey Pub (see separate Treatment item). Tue 9/13, 8:30 PM, Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln, 773-549-5549, $7.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Brian Tamborello.