Dutch Elms

Music for Happiness

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Refreshingly, the album title is not only non-ironic, it's entirely descriptive. The Dutch Elms are a revolving-instrumentation quartet from Seattle led by singer/songwriter Jay Chilcote (Revolutionary Hydra, Slo-Mo Rabbit Kick) that specializes in just the sort of '60s-inspired twee pop that the Elephant 6 bands have stopped providing: the songs are chockablock full of winsome male and female vocals, politely distorted guitars, and shambolic rhythm sections, not to mention barely veiled tributes to various bands of the past. For example, "Yesterday's Coffee," a jaunty little shuffle with close-harmony vocals, is undoubtedly meant to sound as much like mid-period Turtles as it does, with the exception of that Beach Boys-style vocal harmony setup on the bridge, and the resemblance of the opening riff of "Don't Call Me Winston" to Love's "My Little Red Book" is equally striking. There's more to appreciate here than just the clever lifts; all four bandmembers sing and write, and unlike many bands that go this route, there's a uniformity of style and purpose to Music for Happiness that belies its multifaceted origins. This is an outstanding debut that steers clear of the usual twee pop pitfalls in favor of smart and stunningly melodic songwriting.

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