Goddamn Electric Bill

Jazz

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With the gentle tones of "Birth of a Star" arcing in along with piano, the progression of Goddamn Electric Bill's opening song on Jazz -- as apt a title as it was for Queen -- into acoustic territory works because the idea of combining everything just so is no longer a strange concept musically (and, indeed, never really was). "Pull the Lever" introduces Jason Torbert's understated, contemplative voice on this album, and it would be easy to believe that he was from Scandinavia -- something about the music and his gentle singing seems to fit the region and its reputation for contemplative indie pop of all stripes. Then again, it's not too surprising in America now -- Torbert's now numerous releases show how clearly he's made his own little mark. Calling one song "1780" seems cryptic on the face of it -- a year? an apartment number? something else entirely? -- but the sense of sweet playfulness, part Raymond Scott and part Vince Clarke, is paramount. On a song like "Half-Awake" it's simply gorgeous, a sweet lead melody moving into a conclusion with both massed parts and a sudden bass crunchiness to add extra heft. There's also something already winsome and nostalgic about "The End of 2008" in its sparkling melody and blend of melancholic tones and quick pep -- if synth pop is already nostalgic by default, a song like this shows how quickly it accelerates.

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