As if getting a spread in a popular home decor magazine just a month prior to this album's release wasn't enough of a tipoff, Blonde Redhead have come a long way since their days of mimicking Sonic Youth's brittle art-rock. Clanging guitars have been replaced by warm synthesizers and soft strings, while Japanese singer Kazu Makino's thin voice has become a ghostly moan on the grandiose opener and title track of the New York trio's seventh full-length release, 23
. Their last one, 2004's Misery Is a Butterfly
, was a lovely throwback to the dream-pop heyday of the Cocteau Twins and Lush. This one presses further down that road, only with a more experimental streak, as cascading guitars, military rhythms, and wobbly melodies shape opulent, otherworldly songs like "The Dress" and "My Impure Hair." --Aidin Vaziri
Possibly one of the most international bands on the planet, this New York-based threesome release their seventh album, a mixed bag of ethereal-sounding gems and forgettable-but-pleasant songs.
Italian brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace (who spent their teenage years in Montreal), and vocalist Kazu Makino (who grew up in Kyoto) self-produced their latest offering, with a little mid-recording help from Mitchell Froom.
Makino's vocals have that high-pitched spooky, sweetness that recalls The Cardigans and Bjork, which fits well with the layered, guitar-laden wistfulness of the band's sound. Tracks here veer between ambient, euphoric melancholy and breathy-sounding pop tunes, making the album hard to pin down.
Title track and album opener, ''23'', named after Makino's lucky number, is under-pinned by a driving drumbeat, matched up with a rich guitar sound, making it one of the few highlights on offer here.
''SW'', on which Amedeo Pace takes vocals, combines Sgt. Pepper-style brass breakdowns with layered guitar sounds and dreamy lyrics, while ''Spring And By Summer Fall'' is one of the few tracks where the guitars get to shine through.
''Silently'' goes as far as sounding distinctly poppy with its saccharine-sweet lush vocals, while ''Heroine'' and ''My Impure Hair'' wouldn't sound out of place on an Air album.
''Top Ranking'' is definitely one of the most interesting and charming songs here, with a great guitar line combined with driving drumming, a sweet electronic melody and the occasional odd electronic sound, while ''Dr Strangeluv'' perfectly showcases Makino's beautiful voice.
This is by no means a stand-out album, but you could spend a perfectly enjoyable 40 minutes with this playing in the background. It's just a shame that the beautiful, layered sound on a few tracks is drowned out by the forgettable mass of the rest of the album. --Helen Groom
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