Allies and Stepping Stones

Astropop 3

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Allies and Stepping Stones Review

by Stephen Cramer

"Forget Tomorrow" opens up Astropop 3's Allies and Stepping Stones with a power pop guitar line, which leads to the song's glorious upbeat tempo. Immediately, it's clear that the Virginia band is at the top of its indie rock game. Guitarist/vocalist Dan Villanueva leads the group, which is all over the map on this one, from the mysterious aura of "Cubicles" to the breezy charm of "Nothing Without You" and the frolicsome vocals of Angelique Everett on "Fade on Your Own." The band's refusal to stick to one style or tempo creates an uneasy pace throughout, which somehow works. The minimal guitar/bass/drum approach reveals a disc chock-full of songs that could easily have found a place in indie rock's heyday of the early to mid-'90s. "Never Seen the Sun" features the album's catchiest guitar riff, while the atmospheric and instrumental "Spytek" features the disc's biggest and least predictable instrumentation, by far. "Bubble Gum Breakup" brings the band back to its patented light and playful sound, with Everett again adding her endearing and jolly vocals. Although the band is obviously influenced by Brit-pop and American indie rock and pop, the songs never sound forced, and each song retains the essential power and hook to reel listeners in. The disc ends with "Our Forgotten Yesterdays," which bookends the disc with more toe-tapping sensibility and charming vocals by Villanueva. In the end, the disc highlights the merits of simple, unthreatening, back-to-basics music. Bassist Keith Vanetta and drummer Wendell Nicholes round out the group. Planting Seeds Records released Allies and Stepping Stones in early 2004.

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