The Apples in Stereo

Tone Soul Evolution

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    8
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The second full-length album by the Apples in Stereo isn't as surprising as their debut, 1995's Fun Trick Noisemaker, but it doesn't sound like simply more of the same. Graced with a larger budget and access to a fully equipped 24-track recording studio for the first time, the group (particularly singer/songwriter/producer Robert Schneider) is working with a much larger canvas now, and it shows. The sound of this album is just remarkable, as layered as any of Jeff Lynne's mid-'70s Electric Light Orchestra albums, but with a freshness and energy that keeps things from merely sounding slick. Schneider explores his fascination with Smile-era Brian Wilson on atmospheric linking tracks like "The Silvery Light of a Dream" and the album's wordless coda, giving the record a sonic unity arguably missing from the all-over-the-map Fun Trick Noisemaker. The one flaw is that the songwriting is not quite up to the consistency of the debut; while songs like "You Said That Last Night," "Seems So," and especially "Shine a Light" are exemplary, there are a couple of tracks that have a whiff of filler about them. Aside from that, Tone Soul Evolution is a fine follow-up.

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