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Best Pop Band 

Finn's Motel

Joe Thebeau's no stranger to the local music community, seeing as he's been playing and constructing music as a member of various bands for many years. But he's struck pure-pop gold with his current project, Finn's Motel, a rotating cast of musicians and personalities that proves just how smart music can be. Literally and figuratively: The scientific references dotting the stellar single "Of Cycles and Engines" — one of the year's best, a bit of jangle-grime that's insidiously catchy — set a brainiac tone that continues throughout the band's debut CD, Escape Velocity. Thebeau's voice has the higher-register lilt of Superchunk's Mac McCaughan, while the spring-loaded choruses and boisterous garage-grunge riffs sound like Guided by Voices with a Ph.D. — and Velocity's dreamier moments conjure the Pernice Brothers, or Wilco with a shoegazing problem. Despite such erudite touchstones, Finn's Motel's tunes never get swallowed by academic preciousness; if anything, they want to make you drive down the road at top speed on a sunny day.

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