The Heavy Blinkers / Orwell

Intercontinental Pop Exchange, Vol. 3

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The third volume in Endearing's Intercontinental Pop Exchange series pairs two of the leading lights of the modern chamber pop scene. Halifax's Heavy Blinkers and France's Orwell each contribute three glittering, heavily orchestrated gems. The Heavy Blinkers' songs feature one from their 2004 record, the lounge-y instrumental "Veranda Celeste," and two which are previously unreleased. "Maplewood" is a lush, piano-driven song with group vocals, full orchestration, and a pastoral feel thanks to the pedal steel; "Tribute to Sparrow" is a relatively sparse song (for them anyway) that sounds like there are 15 people playing on it compared to the usual 30. It is easy to see why the band counts Van Dyke Parks among their fans, since they sound very much like what Smile might have sounded like stripped of it's weird epic feel and replaced by relaxed and loving waves of peaceful feelings. The Orwell side features a new recording of their song "Monorail," an alternate mix of "Everywhere" from the group's second U.S. release, and a nice instrumental recorded for the EP, "Attic's Ballad." The songs are all lovely, smooth and easy chamber pop, somewhere between the gentle glide of the High Llamas and the rhythmic propulsion of Stereolab. Not the widest cross ever, or the most original sound, but it makes for very pleasant listening. Best of the lot is the version of "Monorail, which mixes in some Serge Gainsbourg crooning and a café atmosphere with the otherwise space age pop sound. Two great bands, six wonderful songs. Consider the third volume in Endearing's series a success.

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