Moonbabies at the Ballroom

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There's just something intrinsically pleasing about the pairing of synthesizers and acoustic guitars, but since folks started figuring this out en masse (somewhere around the time Beth Orton hit the scene), listeners have been in perpetual danger of too much of a good thing. Swedish duo the Moonbabies have managed to stay on the right side of familiar through varying their approach. As a result, their fourth full-length album ranges from the Air-like bliss-out "21st Century Heart" to a folky little guitar instrumental, "Ratatouille," that wouldn't sound out of place on a John Martyn album. In between those sonic extremes, Ola Frick and Carina Johansson deftly recalibrate the balances to create dreamy ballads like "The 9th" and more urgent turns like Johannson's snappy "Take Me to the Ballroom." They even take the time for a couple of charming stylistic pastiches: "Shout It Out" playfully lifts the main hook from "Then He Kissed Me" for its chiming intro riff, and the lengthy "Dancing in the Sky" closes the album with a shimmering languor akin to the High Llamas' Hawaii period. So there's little that's actually new on Moonbabies at the Ballroom, but the deft mixing of musical styles and influences can be appealing on its own merits.

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