Little Aida

Mad Country

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When a band goes a decade without providing a new album, the question that immediately comes to mind is, "In what respects has the band evolved since the last album?" Some bands will evolve radically in the course of ten or 11 years, while others won't change a bit -- and for others, the truth is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. A good example of the latter is Little Aida, whose 2007 release, Mad Country, is their first album since 1996's Confessions. Back in 1996, this Australian band was frequently compared to Portishead (a good, if imperfect, comparison) and offered alternative pop/rock that was greatly influenced by trip-hop, hip-hop, and the downtempo/chillout side of electronica. But on Mad Country, the club-friendly outlook of Confessions is gone and has been replaced by a much more guitar-minded approach that is relevant to both alternative pop/rock (especially the shoegazer bands) and folk-rock; the Portishead comparison is no longer applicable. And yet, Little Aida still sound like Little Aida. Their material is still decidedly melancholy; lead singer Tessa Rubinstein still favors a girlish, waifish vocal style; and Little Aida remain a band that would rather float than rock. The most intriguing thing about Rubinstein is her ability to sound both girlish and world-weary at the same time; no one will accuse her of having a big, womanly type of voice, but she certainly isn't girlish in a Radio Disney kind of way. On a technical level, Rubinstein doesn't have huge chops, but she still gets her emotional points across on airy, reflective offerings such as "The Dam Is Broken" and "Horses." Mad Country is a pleasing, worthwhile effort that illustrates Little Aida's ability to evolve without losing their identity.

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