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Anubian Lights: Phantascope

 
Once in awhile, a CD mysteriously disappears from the betterPropaganda production department before we can even scan the cover and encode the mp3s for our site. No one ever bothers to swipe the crap music that piles up in our offices. A CD that disappears before it's uploaded generally is hotter than most; apparently one of the staffers was willing to endure some office-wide vocal tirades about not removing music from our office before it gets posted to the site just to get their hands on a printed copy of this disc. Somehow a DIY pirate CDR while the boss wasn't looking wasn't good enough for this one, they had to have the printed object, which has a very nice full color booklet. Anubian Lights' Phantascope is that good of an album. Fortunately for us- and you, our dear listener- the Anubian Lights' label Rhythmbank was able to kindly FedEx us a replacement copy per our most humble and apologetic request.

The band has some serious history and we won't get into that here, other than to note that the experience onboard gives this band a lot of strength, depth and range unseen in other groups. At first glance, Anubian Lights are an urban hipster trio ala the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, featuring a punky chick vocalist with lots of eyeliner in the Siouxsie Sioux/Chrissie Hynde mold. All three wear vintage suits and neckties in their photoshoots. Musically, they cover that terrain convincingly enough. They can get a bit punkier than the Yeah Yeah Yeahs- sometimes reminding me of vintage B52s. More interestingly, the band drifts heavily into electronica territory, which they do very well: warping synth lines and downtempo beats changing places with guitars here and there. Even more amazing is the group's fascination with vintage exotica ala 60s lounge guru Martin Denny, and the group's ability to execute that sound at a top-shelf production level.

Listening to the highly eclectic Phantascope is a long distance carpet ride, that, even by college radio standards, covers more terrain than usual. If you've got one of those friends who makes all-over-the-place compilation CDs, they'd have to be in top form to match these guys in smoothly mixing seemingly disparate styles and flavors. And Anubian Lights manage to do all of it well; where lesser artists would be visibly stretched thin or outright fall on their faces in failure with this amount of ambition, these guys rise to the challenge. The band's ethos recognizes all of this. Bandmember Tommy Grenas explains: "The whole aesthetic behind Anubian Lights is: Everything is a valid idea, and anything is acceptable. We never sit down and make a conscious decision, 'Oh, the record has to sound like this.' We like to consider the whole spectrum of music - no matter what sound or style - as a possibility." In an increasingly hybrid-crazed world of music, this is the kind of thing that we love at betterPropaganda.

Standout tracks include the beautifully written and delightfully campy pop track "Good Morning Spacegirl" which is treated a bit like Smash Mouth's "Walking on the Sun" and Propellerhead's collaboration with legendary vocalist Shirley Bassey on the song "History Repeating." The band's publicist is dead on in mentioning the song's evocation of the 60s sci-fi film Barbarella. "New Wildlife" is perhaps the most successful of the exotica tracks in the collection, downtempo bliss lushly rendered over a repeating jazzy piano riff and bossa nova flavored rimshots... and is that a mellotron solo? Nice. "Andromeda Skin" sounds like a raved up and modernized B52s, which is not lost on the band's lyric "You're my own Private Idaho"... although lyrically and on an emotive peak in the track's chorus they're much more similar to the lusty modern blues of San Francisco favorites Von Iva, with added layers of studio production.

This one has generated a lot of buzz in our office and is well worth repeated listens. Enjoy.

Terbo Ted
Editor, betterPropaganda

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