West Indian Girl

4th & Wall

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For the uninitiated, West Indian Girl are not a reggae band, and for those who haven't been paying attention, they aren't an electro-studio duo anymore, either. With 4th & Wall the twosome has expanded to a sextet with the addition of live bass, drums, percussion, and guitar, further swelled by a host of guest musicians, greatly extending WIG's aural vistas and influences -- which now span the musical spectrum from synth pop to classic rock, from new wave to techno. A Keith Richards-ish guitar lick enlivens the infectious "Get Up," echoes of "Free Bird" soar in the finale of "Sofia," the Soup Dragons' spirit swirls around "Lost Children," and Echo & the Bunnymen's moody atmospheres pool around "To Die in LA" and "All My Friends." On the irresistible "Solar Eyes," the group juxtaposes bubbly synth pop against a lusher new romantic style and a four-on-the-floor disco beat, then stirs in spacy effects and a funky feel. Sadly, though, the set's sequencing is a bit slack, occasionally making for jarring shifts in styles between tracks, which is a shame, because in reality 4th & Wall is actually a quite coherent album. This is particularly evident in the songs' themes, which revolve around the lure of L.A. and its nearby beaches, as well as more universal interpersonal subjects. It's equally true of the music, even as the band drifts from gentle soft pop through Boston-styled keyboard rockers, the hefty space rocker "Rise from the Dead," and upbeat dance tunes. The styles may change and the atmospheres alter from languorous to driving, but what remains constant are the lilting vocals, strong melodies, and psychedelic keyboards that remain the core of WIG's sound. The pumping "Blue Wave" was the first number selected as a sound clip, but the new wave-ish "To Die in LA" and the breezy "All My Friends" would have worked just as well, while "Solar" should tear up the dancefloor. Like West Indian Girl's California home, the band's music is an exhilarating experience, and a fabulous place to lose one's self.

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