Bleached

Ride Your Heart

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By the time Mika Miko released their final album, We Be Xuxa, Jennifer and Jessica Clavin were already leaning toward the cleaner, more melodic punk-pop that they explore more fully on Ride Your Heart, their debut album as Bleached. Their early singles, like the excellent "Searching Through the Past" -- which appears here and remains a highlight -- were equal parts sassy attitude and vulnerable confessions, all wrapped up in inescapable hooks and melodies. However, that immediacy is missing a little too often on these songs, and the Clavin sisters sometimes sound less sure of themselves than they did before. "Outta My Mind" and "Next Stop" have nice harmonies but aren't especially distinctive; "Dead in Your Head" shows that they've developed their skills with tension and release, yet still drags. Since there was no shortage of like-minded acts at the time of Ride Your Heart's release, it's understandable that Bleached expanded on their sound here, albeit with uneven results. "Guy Like You" shows off some unexpectedly sensitive songwriting from the sisters, not just compared to their Mika Miko work, but to their earlier singles as well. The song's dreamy acoustic vibe -- complete with slide guitar -- is sweet, but does little to dissuade the notion that the Clavins are at their best when they're swaggering at least a little. The girl group chug of "Dreaming Without You" offers a unique balance of heartbreak and independence, while the wistful title track shows that they can do pretty without losing their identity. Elsewhere, "Love Spells" and "Waiting by the Telephone" follow in the vein of "Searching Through the Past," but their familiar sound works in their favor. Bands with lo-fi roots take a risk when they clean up or otherwise change their music, and Bleached seem to be in mid-transition on this album: they're neither as appealingly ragged as they were before, yet not as polished as they could be. Despite this unevenness, at its best Ride Your Heart captures Bleached's carefree, slightly scuzzy California cool-girl charm.

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