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Friday, June 20, 2008

Spygirl: "Pieces of Evidence"

My tastes in music are kind of all over the place.  In general, I need a good melody, good instrumentation, nothing too noisy, nothing too cheesy.  Play with passion, play with drive, and make me believe that you enjoy what you do.  For the most part, that's all it takes.  However, I've noticed as of late that my favorite groups, the ones that stand out in my mind, are the ones that contain certain eccentricities or unique aspects that set them apart.  Vancouver-based pop band, Spygirl, doesn't really have any eccentricities, and as far as pop music goes, Pieces of Evidence is about as straightforward and listener-friendly as it gets.  

Despite this, Spygirl excels in the one area that all pop musicians should:  by making music that infects you, stays in your head, and doesn't leave easily.  For me, the song that sticks out the most on Pieces of Evidence has to be the near-perfect "Today," in which lead-singer Koralee Tonack pleads, "I want you by my side/ right by my side/ please wait," over beautifully-played guitars, keys, and drums.  The first night after I heard the song, I laid my head down to go to sleep, but was plagued by the song's catchy chorus.  Singing it in my head over and over again, it took me an especially long time to fall asleep that night.

Other songs of note on the album include the dreamy guitar pop of "Asleep Awake" where a simple "ba da ba ba" has never been better utilized, and "Where Did Those Stars Come From," a solemn, piano ballad that eventually builds into a triumphant exclamation, complete with energetic trumpets and a cool, though somewhat out of place breakdown.  The band really flirts with late-nineties pop/rock sounds through the length of the album.  Never is that more apparent than on "Beautiful," where the band's guitars really come to the forefront as Koralee questions, "Do I bend the mind/ the eye in the middle?/ Do I bring your heart alive?"  It is a powerful song, and one that sets aside many of the band's pop tendencies for a more rock feel.  As such, its greatness is revealed a bit more slowly, and it may not stand out until the third or fourth listen.  And if the band's genre-crossing nature didn't make itself know to you there, the quasi-rock/gospel track, "Feeling Fine" should do the trick!

Even with the band's talented lineup, Koralee really does make this band what it is.  Her vocals are the driving force of most songs on the album, and if there's one thing that you'll remember about Spygirl, it's her voice.  To put it simply, it is quite gorgeous.  She sings with conviction, with passion, and almost sounds like a talented Alanis Morissette.  Unfortunately, I can't help but feel as if her voice is brought out to the front of the mix too often, overpowering the other members of the band.  This may just be me, of course, but I've thought this since the first time I first popped in Pieces of Evidence, and even now after several listens, my feelings remain unchanged.  A small gripe, and one that doesn't change the enjoyability of the songs, but one that deserves attention nonetheless. 

In the end, Pieces of Evidence winds up being a rather enjoyable listen.  In the band's 12-year existence, this is only their second LP.  The amount of time and work spent on making this album really shows, and the level of polish on Pieces of Evidence is impressive, even for pop music!  It probably won't wind up on any "Best Albums" list, but that shouldn't detract from the band's talent, nor their achievement of making a pop album without a single dud track.  Listen to a few tracks and decide for yourself, or if you're like me, let your sleepless nights decide for you.

Key Tracks:
1. "Asleep Awake"
2. "Today"
3. "Where Did Those Stars Come From"
4. "Feeling Fine"
5. "Be Lost"

7 out of 10 Stars

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