Moonbabies at the Ballroom
here’s just something about girls and boys and having them trade verses or, better yet, sing at the exact same time. The Delgados and Stars have made a cottage industry based on it. Well, it doesn’t hurt that the music is pretty great too. But, then again, who wouldn’t fall in love with the sort of indie pop that puts sugar on top of every break-up and makes an acoustic strum sound as epic and conflicted as Mahler’s 9th.
The Moonbabies, as you might have guessed, do all this and more on their third album. It’s undoubtedly their finest yet, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what that is. Catchier melodies is the probable answer, but why bother getting into the loose arithmetic that such a claim engenders? (They’re about 8 for 11 here, though, if you were wondering.) Instead, just sitting back and enjoying the show is probably your best bet.
“War on Sound” starts the album proper, fresh from its stint on “Grey’s Anatomy” and none the worse for wear. It still strides confidently into view, with its marching band drums and cooing vocals. Ola Frick’s vocals still sound a little awkward to these ears, but when Carina Johansson joins in, and everybody is taken a step higher by an oscillating synth all bets are off. No such concerns endanger “Take Me to the Ballroom,” perhaps because Johansson takes the first verse instead. It’s a song worthy of an album being titled after it, marrying that aforementioned acoustic strum to a steady electric hum and, in the process, creating the first anthem ever to ask to be taken to the ballroom. Well, since The Shining anyway.
Elsewhere, the Babies fruitfully branch out. “Don’t Ya Know”’s backing wouldn’t sound that out of place on a Ladytron record, until it busts into an exuberant chorus at least. “Cocobelle” is the sound of the band at the ballroom, serenaded by a deliciously overblown orchestra. “Shout It Out” sounds like Spector allowing a little space to seep into the wall. (But not that much.)
Things aren’t all gold, but let’s ignore all that for now. Besides, with these two harmonizing in my ear, I can’t quite remember what was the problem anyway. The Moonbabies have gone to the ballroom and come back with their best album yet. Why bother fighting it?
Reviewed by: Charles Merwin
Reviewed on: 2007-08-22