Power Ballads

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Ashby's debut album, Power Ballads, is a dreamy mix of pure pop and experimental electronica, a combination that's nowhere near as far-fetched as it might sound. If nothing else, the Boston-based duo of Evelyn Pope (who sings and writes the songs) and William Cowie (who produces) make plain the influence of '60s melodicists like Burt Bacharach and Antonio Carlos Jobim on the supposedly "difficult" genre of post-rock. Though the album is full of strangely harmonized electronic bleeps and bloops and the arrangements tend to group instruments in unexpected ways, the songs are built on mellow melodies full of major seventh chords and accented with vibes and hand percussion. The songs tend to blend into each other a little more than perhaps they should, with only the sunny opener "West Coast Town" and the jazzy, largely instrumental "Continuity" really standing out on first exposure. The subtle charms of the other songs reveal themselves upon a couple more listens, and Pope's cool yet expressive voice and the icily pretty sound are enchanting enough by themselves to make Power Ballads a compulsively listenable record. If St. Etienne ever made a record with the Sea and Cake, it would sound a lot like this.

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