The Capricorns

In the Zone

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"Refreshing," that's the word for it -- which may seem strange, in that the Capricorns have clear roots in nervous synth-pop energy. But compared to the endless run of willfully trashy garage/punk bands that after a certain point plagued music circa 2002, having a band with a "The Somethings"-style name that actually brought something comparatively new to the table can't be celebrated enough. The duo of Heather Lynn and Kirsten Nordine, sharing vocals and keyboards (along with Lynn on tambourine), fire up from the start with "The New Sound" and just don't stop, celebrating everything from video games to teenage boyfriends and back again. Their aesthetic suggests a healthy love of D.I.Y./riot grrrl approaches, but there's no willful sloppiness -- the brisk drum machine punches and sweet-yet-sharp singing get supported by on-point melodies which sound like they've been force-fed plenty of sugar. Songs like "Remote Control" (where the tambourine in particular is the killer touch) and the brilliant putdown "Nathan II" just seem to make it all 1981 again while still being of a new millennium, almost like an extension of a long-abandoned pop path rather than a simple re-creation. Not everything is pure freneticism, though, as slower and equally worthy efforts like "The Closet" show. "Geeky Pop Song" steers clear of the self-deprecation in its title with a truly lovely lead melody and steady pace, while the seemingly-peppy "The Longest Drive," dedicated to a friend who perished in a car accident, is a sudden, gripping moment of heartbreaking loss. Throughout Lynn's singing is the not-so-secret weapon, clear, strong and really captivating. In the Zone is the perfect soundtrack for when the Powerpuff Girls become the Powerpuff Late Teenagers, mixing in a touch more angst but still gleefully kicking ass and taking names.

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