"The dated but delicious sunshine pop of a little known 1960's family act called The Free Design just got a makeover from the good folks at Light in the Attic Records, and the result is one of the best, most unexpected albums of the year. Using the lilting melodies and lush arrangements of the original tracks as a base, 21 "now sound" performers get busy reinterpreting, updating, and just generally playing with The Free Design's catalog in a devoted but totally inventive way.
Now keep in mind, The Free Design was a kind of real-live Partridge Family: two brothers and two sisters from upstate New York who formed a baroque folk group that became popular on the Greenwich Village coffeehouse circuit, so their music is super...uh, white. Maybe that's why it fares best in the hands of urban stylists like Dangermouse, Murs, and Peanut Butter Wolf, who furnish edge and counterpoint to all those too-immaculate harmonics... a little bitta coffee for all that cream.
Koushick and Dudley Perkins give "Don't Cry Baby" a super cool urban sunshine sound--like Sesame Street for grown-ups--while Kid Koala and Dynamite D. put down slow beats and scratching so good in "An Elegy," it'll make you throw the phrase "trip-hop" around like it's 1995. Indie types like Stereolab, Caribou, and Super Furry Animals make a strong showing as well, and the European outfit Mellow trip out expertly on a remix of the unbelievably titled non-parody by The Free Design, "Kites are Fun."
Best of all, everyone here steers clear of the overweening irony and camp that has turned so many tribute albums into little more than novelties, and hipsters though some may be, they're too busy taking this gentle music seriously to bother posturing. Who knows? Maybe cynicism had become so de rigueur that it got boring and innocence became intersting again. The music did too."