Thursday, December 31, 2009

Albums of the Year, 2009 : 4 - Micachu - Jewellery

"Micachu, aka Mica Levi, is a classically trained composer and instrumentalist, but she revels in sounds that are anything but polite and restrained -- in fact, she goes out of her way to turn the most outlandish, seemingly "wrong" sounds into addictively, hyperactively catchy songs. For Jewellery, she teamed up with kindred spirit Matthew Herbert, and together they remind listeners how much more there can be to electronic pop than some lazy loops here and some copy-paste there.

Songs like "Vulture" and "Sweetheart" burn through ideas at a whiplash pace, picking up one sound for a few beats before tossing it aside for something shinier, or more accurately, noisier: the album is filled with distortion, be it crisp or cloudy, but it's used artfully; Jewellery's energy may be reckless, but its sounds are "detailed," as on "Lips," which uses a kiss as a percussion fill (clearly, Micachu brought out Herbert's most playful side). "Detailed" doesn't mean delicate, though -- nearly every element on Jewellery is brash and bold, from Levi's witty tough girl vocals to the buzzing bass that bounces through the album, which nods to Levi's fondness for U.K. garage (and is made all the more interesting when it's paired with a riff that recalls the Champs' "Tequila" on "Calculator").

Levi and the Shapes even flirt with more widely accessible pop on "Golden Phone," the album's most straightforward song, and "Just in Case," the band's interpretation of Neptunes-style pop production. These songs are so swift and dense that it's easy to feel overwhelmed at first, and Micachu and her crew don't slow down the mischief until Jewellery is almost done. "Turn Me Well" is as close as she gets to a ballad; even though it starts with the sound of a vacuum cleaner, the tempo is slower and the lyrics ("I was told desire had a sell by date/Well, it's rotted and altered but still remains") are surprisingly thoughtful. A wild funhouse of an album, Jewellery is more challenging and idea packed (not to mention more fun) than a lot of self-proclaimed experimental music."

- Heather Phares, AllMusicGuide

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