The Ladybug Transistor

The Ladybug Transistor

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Ladybug Transistor's fourth album is the band's first to be recorded outside its own Marlborough Farms studio. They packed up and split to Arizona of all places to work with Calexico producer Craig Schumacher. Their delicate, Baroque, citified chamber pop sound remains fully intact; the only trace of the desert is the occasional pedal steel guitar. The band seems to have shaken off the doldrums that lightly plagued its previous record, 2001's disappointing Argyle Heir, coming up with a killer batch of songs that are catchy and involving. The best aspects of the band are strongly in place: Gary Olson's trembling son-of-Hazlewood baritone; the wonderful arrangements full of chiming guitars, baritone harmonica, burbling organs, lush horns and strings, and perfectly played piano; as well as their secret weapon, the sweet voice of Sasha Bell, which provides a blinding flash of sunshine when it appears (as on her lilting "The Places You'll Call Home") and is a perfect balance to the unremitting gloom of Olson's. There are songs here that will certainly end up on their "best-of" record: the heartbreaking string-laden ballad "Song for an Ending Day," the hard-rocking (by their standards) road song "Hangin' on the Line," the cover of Jackie DeShannon's "Splendor in the Grass" (which absolutely shimmers with jangly perfection), and the hooky "In December" (which features a breathtaking middle section in which the horns and strings go all Technicolor). The Ladybug Transistor is a return to form for the band and is right up there with its best work. That ranks it right up there as some of the best pop music being made today.

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