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Texas power pop misfit Darin Murphy always has had an unconditional affinity for the Beatles. And Solitarium affirms that fixation. But in the end, this stunningly inventive debut is much more than just another of Murphy's homemade Beatles simulations. Although he did have some help with recording and mixing, Solitarium is unequivocally his baby. He plays every instrument (guitar, bass, drums, tamboura, synthesizer, theremin and more). And other than his folk singer sibling, Trish Murphy, singing backup on one track (the low-wattage, burn-out anthem "Stuck in a Hole"), he supplies all the vocals, capitalizing fully on the appeal of that nasally, semi-aristocratic timbre of his. Murphy is a human sponge, his maximum absorption factor seemingly triggered by anything cleverly rendered, melodically challenging -- and British. With Solitarium, he squeezes out a lumpy masterpiece swimming with loving asides (however inadvertent) to many of his heroes. Tops on the list: the Beach Boys, XTC and, of course, the Fab Four. Listen closely, and you might even hear the kind of '70s influences Murphy isn't all that comfortable divulging -- like the over-the-top, Foreigner-like bridge on "So You Think" and the Wingsy coyness of "She's Better Than Me."

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