By RFT Music
By Drew Ailes
By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
Somewhere along the line, amid a flurry of releases and a steady stream of gigs on local stages, the Vanilla Beans became St. Louis' best electro-twee band. And that's not as narrow of a genre as you might think — the group marries simple pop dynamics (boy/girl harmonies, sing-song lyrics) with digital drum beats and burbling synth. It's a mix that's modern and timeless, befitting a band that reportedly bonded over a shared love of Daniel Johnston, but also quickly advanced past any kind of faux-naïveté — you don't write songs this catchy on accident. Last year the band issued its second full-length, the sixteen-track Don't Think It's Weird, as well as a split with Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship. For FFFF, Vanilla Beans issues a scant four tunes; luckily, they're all bouncy, danceable winners.
Opening track "BF Turtle" is as good an introduction to the band as any. Yes, the band is singing a song of fidelity and everlasting friendship to a turtle. And, yes, that's an impossibly precious subject for a song. But when Andy Garces and Ani Kramer combine to kick its stair-stepping chorus into harmonic overdrive, the track's catchy genius unfurls. Kramer's Moog synthesizer lines go from matching the guitars' hits to coloring the chorus with arpeggios that would sound right at home on Top 40 radio. Things turn nominally more sour on "Everything Is Bad," which serves as the title as well as a stand-alone chorus repeated ad infinitum, but the light-funk guitar chords give the song a quick flash of basement Chic. Garces plays guitar, as do Chris Eiliers and Todd Anderson, and yet these songs are never awash in power chords. Chunky riffs and tight solos are doled out tastefully and in service of the song. "The Pirate Song" is punctuated with fanfare-like synth blasts, and, once again, Garces and Kramer imbue seemingly childlike lyrics with traces of wisdom and knowing. That's a good balance for a band that takes having fun very seriously.
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