Wendy and Casper

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With 16 songs in 27 minutes to share, luv(sic) again demonstrates that brevity is the band's friend. It's a good friendship too. Right from the warm and engaging start, "Prudence," the trio shows that their blend of low-key energy, decidedly unpolished mixes (no digital crispness for this crew), and inspirational tweaks and turns on the indie approach make for a great listen. Definite credit goes to the beeping, whirling keyboards on many tracks; though one can hear quick drum shuffles and chugging guitar rushes here and there, it's the swirl on songs like "Mandy P" and "Friendly Pilot Whale" which give Wendy and Casper its real charm. The blend of Steve's slightly more-direct and Anne's equally active-but-slightly more lost-in-the-mix singing is still as charming as ever, caught between not quite being there and a pleasant presence. Certainly their favored approach toward production that slathers on more echo and reverb than a box set of Galaxie 500 songs might seem a problem, but as with many of their other releases, the true joy comes from the tension between the songs' accessibility and the apparent drowning of that quality. Perhaps it's only appropriate that one song be called "At the Bottom of the Sea," though the odd little cymbal crashes actually give that tune in particular its beauty stamp. Sometimes the percussion sounds machine provided, but that seems to be more a function of the recording than anything else -- and it actually lends some songs, "Spliced Raisins" in particular, some odd little charm. If the album suffers from sameness toward the end, its overall approach can't be faulted, and again, the fact that it's a short listen means that the approach has no real time to seem too repetitious.