By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
There's nothing like naïve, bouncy international pop, especially when cheapo keyboards are involved and the lead-singer lady sings in sexy foreign languages or in English with a thick accent. Either Stereo Total's Brezel Goring or Solex's Elisabeth Esselink could charm the boys by simply singing the periodic table. Both of their bands hawk brands of international pop that draw from varying sources, and this toss-it-in-a-pot-let's-make-a-stew approach works so well that the blending creates a style all its own.
Stereo Total's members hail from all parts of Europe, and you can tell. Within their sound is found French lounge pop à la Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg, along with the updated Stereolab version of said sound. Freaky disco rhythms gently nudge their music forward, and at times these uppity beats struggle with Nico-esque somberness (think Donna Summer singing "Chelsea Girls" -- or Nico singing "I Feel Love"). And a passion for early Beatles bleeds through their joyful lovey-dovey celebration (they honor Ringo in one song and cover "Drive My Car" in another).
Solex is Elisabeth Esselink, and she's Dutch. Where Stereo Total deals in the past more often than they deal with the present, Solex -- at least musically/instrumentally -- lives in the here and now. Juggling guitars with samplers and synthetic beats, Solex creates a different kind of bedroom pop that resides not in the sloppy room of four-track, guitar, bong and drawn curtains of your typical indie boy but seems created in a neat, ornate boudoir that's clean and smells all girly-perfume-like.
In this room, Solex makes confusing and engaging pop music that relies on standard bass, guitar and drum transmissions but also welcomes with open arms flavored, textured beats; abrupt, melodic samples; and a certain thickness of form. If there's a weakness, at least live, it's the uniformity of Esselink's vocal approach: Her sexy-sexy half-whisper/half-sing works wonders on single cuts; over the course of an album or live performance, though, the style loses its charm after the first few songs, and from there it mostly serves to make generic songs that are actually wildly unique.
In all, this is a perfectly matched double bill, one that celebrates melody and joy.