Various Artists

Now We Are Three!!!

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From the whimsical characters frolicking on the cover on down, New Zealand's Lil Chief Records are just about the cutest indie pop label on the planet and Now We Are Three!!! is a collection that celebrates their third year on the planet, with one song from each record they released between 2002 and 2005. The label's stars are the wonderful Brunettes; they are goofy, charming, and painfully romantic and create magically tiny symphonies that sound like they were recorded in a closet of the Brill Building. Their three tracks here show the bouncy side of the band ("Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks"), the sad and romantic side ("Your Heart Dies"), and the uncharacteristically snide and dark side of the band too ("Maybe White Palisades"). Getting two songs apiece are the Tokey Tones and the Nudie Suits, the former being a sticky-sweet indie-with-electronics group with very strong melodies and melt-in-your-ear vocals, the latter a country-influenced group with slightly askew lead vocals, candy-coated harmonies, and jaunty tunes. The Tokey Tones' "Glitter and Paste" and the Nudie Suits' "Hasten Down to Music City" are both cool enough songs to get you motivated to seek out the full albums. The rest of the groups are plenty good too: Shaft's "Just Because" is a lovely melancholy ballad, Edmund Cake's "Beautiful Sleep" is achingly pretty chamber pop, Ryan McPhun and the Ruby Suns' "Birthday on Mars" starts out as such also but about halfway through breaks into a country-rocker that would have been the best thing on Grandaddy's last record. Best of all may be former Tall Dwarf Alec Bathgate's track; it is the least cute song on the record but is compelling and quite melodic. Count on Lil Chief for the highest quality of indie pop. Now We Are Three!!! is all the proof you need.

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