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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Lisbon
Fat Possum
Isobella
Surrogate Emotions of the Silver Screen
New Granada Records

Rating: 6/10 ?


August 2, 2005
Most good dream pop creates a world all its own, fully engrossing to the listener; it is able to make any audience a blissfully captive one. While Isobella regularly hits these marks, it just as easily pulls its audience out of the idyllic illusions.

They are a band very easy to adore. With influences squarely pegged between the Sundays, the Cocteau Twins, Slowdive and early Velocity Girl, they have literally stellar inspiration. Their biggest flaw, however, is that those same influences are so transparent; those bands perfected their craft from their first appearances on the scene - Isobella still has to get things just right.

To their credit, they've accomplished quite a lot before releasing Surrogate Emotions of the Silver Screen: they've created an enveloping soundscape from easily emoting, colorful waves that move in still-unexpected ways. Their hindrance, then, lies in a lack of balance and consistent production: their vocalist, Laura Poinsette, is either too prominent - jarring the songs with unnecessary, perplexing countermelody - or not prominent enough, feeling all but washed away by the overwhelming atmosphere. For the most part, the former is the case, as her Elizabeth Elmore-like, tinny vocals and awkward, perpendicular contributions seem contrary to where the songs are naturally meant to lead. She is no Mary Lorson or Hope Sandoval, and certainly no Elizabeth Fraser, and her offerings, at times, break the willful suspension of disbelief so essential when creating dream pop - if only because of their muddling placement.

That said, when her vocals work with the grain - given distortion-drenched prominence, clear direction and angry resolve like on the buzzing, Copacetic-inspired "Wrapped in Plastic" - her additions seem more vital and driving. While it is not the most immediately gripping track, it is one of the best because of its careful structure and echoing, well-placed vocal edge. When each piece is perfectly planned, as this song illustrates, Surrogate Emotions of the Silver Screen is both elegant and powerful.

Aside from any misplaced vocal dabbling or meandering melodies, the instrumentalism of this disc is outstanding. Sonically, the way "Miles and Time" borrows from the Cocteau Twins' piano-lite lines and moves to syncopated, tense trip-hop rhythms is simply ingenious. Guitars drip like fitting tears on "For Madmen Only," and the increasingly loud layers of the opener, "Cardboard Igloo", serve as transportation to somewhere magical. The pace is fairly continually slow, but the movement within each track is grand and surprising, shifting from ache to wistfulness in pristine ways.

It is rather fitting that the first note of the first track of Surrogate Emotions of the Silver Screen sounds like it was lifted from a moment already in progress. The abrupt beginning suggests an understood backstory that continues an already established, but unknown, theme. It is likely their next chapter will continue with reference and progress to this third release and expound upon it with the lessons the band has learned in its wake. I predict Isobella will get better and better with time, learning what works in their favor, edifying their production and playing to their strengths. When this happens, they will be at the very forefront of a hopefully-imminent dream pop resurgence, their anthems chiming gloriously between heaven and earth.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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