The Valley Downs


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There are surprisingly few straightforward power pop bands led by female singer/songwriters. Chicago's Valley Downs buck the trend with their solidly entertaining debut EP, which features Marianne Shimkus' wry lyrics and commanding voice over a set of catchy, occasionally country-tinged guitar pop songs penned by co-leader Mike Galassini. Galassini was formerly the leader of the near-forgotten Shoes protégés 92 Degrees back in the '90s, but his songs have improved considerably from his days in that fairly derivative band, with a rootsier sensibility that's an excellent match for Shimkus' plain but assertive vocals and the band's punchy enthusiasm. The opening "Drama Queen" probably has the best lyrics, but the record's high point is the simply outstanding "Sorry," a near-perfect three-and-a-half-minute pop song with the most memorable chorus found here. Of the remaining two songs, the twangy ballad "Better" is far better than the forgettably generic alterna-rock of the disappointing closer, "Twister." Somewhat derivative -- obvious touchstones include Neko Case and Marshall Crenshaw -- but nonetheless entertaining, Behemoth is a promising debut.

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