Elf Power

If Elf Power had emerged in 1985 instead of 1994 from Athens, Georgia, it'd most likely be lumped in with the (mostly) ill-fated Paisley Underground bands (Rain Parade, the Three O'Clock, Dream Syndicate) or the more general niche of "neo-psychedelic" (the Church, Bevis Frond, Spacemen 3). Fortunately there's been a lot of water under the bridge since then, so Elf Power and its latest offering need not be saddled with neo-Sixties/revivalist-type-band pigeonholing. That said, there are many Sixties and Seventies influences that shape its sound, yet they are totally integrated so it never comes across as a pastiche of stolen moments. With dreamy vocals, winsome melodies, and exquisitely layered arrangements embellished with violin, cello, lap steel guitar, and accordion, the closest contemporary peers Elf Power has are Apples In Stereo and Belle & Sebastian, though it rocks more and is a whole lot less mannered and twee than the latter. Modal melodies, guitars set on maximum strum, and gentle cymbal washes create the hypnotic "Three Seeds," and the folky, sea-shantylike "Unseen Hand" resembles a groovy amalgam of the Velvet Underground, Fairport Convention, and 1966-era Byrds. The invigorating "Everlasting Scream" has a nifty Ramones/Buzzcocks thrash-strum filtered through a mad wall of psych-out fuzz. The only downside to this otherwise excellent album is that the vocals at times sound a little too gauzy and laid-back, almost to the point of indifference. Creatures' thoroughly engaging songcraft and hazy, comforting ambiance, however, more than make up for so minor a caveat.
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Mark Keresman