The Sems

Any Day Ago

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On the Sems' (aka sole bandmember Pete Bogolub's) second album, easy listening for shoegazing lovers is the result -- at least in atmosphere, if not always in lyrical intent. But that's not to cut down Any Day Ago at all, which dedicates itself to the principle that if amiable '60s vocal pop and more tranced-out, drone-flecked arrangements can coexist (and as groups like Stereolab and Flowchart have demonstrated, they can), then why not follow the muse? Aside from a guest singer on one song plus a co-producing co-programmer, Bogolub handles it all himself in classic modern one-person-band fashion, and the overall feeling is one of understatement rather than explosiveness. Vocals step back to let instruments carry the songs, which gently swing and flow ("I Don't Believe" being one good example, "I-75" being another) rather than kick along. There's a definite pop jones similar to that of Jim Rao of Orange Cake Mix at work, similarly delicate and happy to create a blend of soothing programming and guitar on songs like "Leaving Is Easy." At points where the guitar steps to the fore, as on "The Last Noise" or the quite striking "Should I Stay," the album verges on a more pop-friendly take on Slowdive's underrated beauty Pygmalion, no bad thing at all. Elsewhere, various short instrumentals like "Away" and "Sand in a Sieve" explore texture qua texture, while individual touches such as the queasy hook on "A Pleasant Time," swirling above the heaviest the guitar crunch gets on the album, adds yet more color. That said, the album does feel a touch samey towards the end, but at only 35 minutes, it's as if Bogolub knows exactly how far to take the album before drawing it to a close.

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