Category Archives: scrubbles says: Moonbabies


Moonbabies At The Ballroom (Hidden Agenda)

Moonbabies At The BallroomAt the Ballroom marks the fourth album from Swedish indie pop duo Moonbabies (full disclosure: I haven’t heard albums #1-3). This male/female pair creates atmospheric, melodic soundscapes awash in tinkly keyboards and acoustic guitars, an effect best displayed on the must-downloads “War On Sound” and “Take Me To The Ballroom”. Their music mostly takes its cues from the early ’90s shoegazer bands (especially on “Cocobelle”), but their distinct lack of edginess makes the group a My Bloody Valentine for kids who weren’t yet born when Loveless came out. Not that they’re immune from other influences; I can appreciate how they lifted the guitar riff from The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” for “Shout It Out”, but otherwise it’s a pretty boring song. Overall, the album might be something useful to have on the iPod while sipping a Starbucks Orange Créme Frapuccino® — a pleasant diversion smothered in its own sense of faux hipness.

Moonbabies at the Ballroom releases today. Download at eMusic or buy the album at

  • The Moonbabies | Take Me to the Ballroom says: Amy Winehouse


Amy Winehouse
Back To Black (Republic)

Amy Winehouse Back To Black23 year-old Amy Winehouse arrives from the UK with the trappings of a full fledged pop star, from tabloid antics to a demanding tour rider. Fine and dandy, but does her second album Back To Black live up to all that massive hype? I’d say yes, but with a few reservations. There’s no question that she possesses an utterly unique voice, a throaty wail which might sound more appropriate coming from an older, heftier Etta James type. The album’s production is also a delight, filled with ’60s-style R&B flourishes which might seem gimmicky if they didn’t fit her personality so seamlessly. This is especially so on the opening single “Rehab” (likely a favorite on Britney Spears’ iPod) and “Tears Dry On Their Own”, which cleverly nicks the opening notes of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. Winehouse also delivers the good on simmering, slower numbers like the title track and the bluesy “Me and Mr. Jones”. That said, Back To Black isn’t a total winner with its trite lyrics and inconsistency – but anyone with a taste for real singers who don’t aspire towards superficiality would find this album a thrill.

Buy the album at

  • Amy Winehouse | Back to Black says: Dean & Britta


Dean & Britta
Back Numbers (Zöe Records)

Dean and BrittaTell me something, are Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips the Nick and Nora Charles of alt-rock? Listening to their second duet album, Back Numbers, the duo exude an offbeat “sexy married couple” feel seldom seen since the Thin Man sleuthing couple’s heyday. It’s the kind thing you’d expect from people whose lineage includes both Galaxie 500 and cartoondom’s Jem. The album is a relaxed affair with a smart mixture of originals and odd covers (two Troggs tunes, a Donovan b-side, a Lee Hazlewood composition, and the theme song from an old British kiddie show) which give off the perfect “aging hipster” vibe. Vocally, both have never sounded better — the sparkling cushion of sound supplied by legendary producer Tony Visconti adds immensely to their performances. Although the album is short on true duets, the couple groove beautifully like a contemporary Nancy & Lee on “Words You Used To Say”. Elsewhere, Britta excels on the spacey C&W-style ballad “Wait for Me” and Dean channels a classic Luna sound on “Crystal Blue” (an ode to a dead pet rabbit). Dem’s the highlights, but overall it’s a smoothly satisfying effort.

Buy the album at

  • Dean & Britta | Wait for Me says: The Bird & The Bee


The Bird & The Bee
self-titled (Blue Note)

The Bird & The BeeYou might be forgiven for thinking that the bird and the bee come across as too, too cute on their self-titled debut, but surprisingly the most pretentious thing about them is their lower-case name. The duo of vocalist Inara George (daughter of Little Feat’s Lowell George) and instrumentalist Greg Kurstin craft music as clear and refreshing as a sunny Spring day, with George’s bell-like voice meshing perfectly with Kurstin’s bubbling synths. The resulting work on this album beautifully combine ’60s affectations with a modern edge. “I’m a Broken Heart” sounds like what might have happened if Lesley Gore collaborated with Ennio Morricone on one of his moodier soundtracks; “La La La” has all the effervescence of a vintage Pucci print. Despite the album’s distinctly retro feel, however, mostly it’s marked by contemporary electro-pop which calls to mind Scandinavian dance diva Annie. This is never more evident than in the self-explanatory “Fucking Boyfriend” and the brilliantly layered “I Hate Camera”. Athough brief (35 minutes) and concluding with a trio of so-so songs, the bird and the bee has already been shortlisted for my year-end Top 10. It’s excellent, and I can’t wait to hear what they’ll do next.

Buy the album at

    The Bird and the Bee | I Hate Camera says: Sondre Lerche


Sondre Lerche
Phantom Punch (Astralwerks)

Sondre LercheMy first thoughts upon hearing Phantom Punch, the latest release from Norwegian pop wünderkind Sondre Lerche: “This sure sounds a heck of a lot like Phoenix’s It’s Never Been Like That.” Both albums are characterized by bracing guitars and spiky yet safe New Wave-y pop (and, coincidentally, both are on the Astralwerks label). Briefly, if you enjoyed It’s Never Been Like That, you’ll probably also dig Phantom Punch.

On the surface, you might say that Lerche is spreading his wings here and attempting a harder sound. Once you get past the noisy façade, though, Phantom Punch continues the melodic accessibility of his 2004 breakthrough, Two Way Monologue. Tunes like “The Tape” and “Face the Blood” bristle with the crafty energy of This Year’s Model-era Costello. His lyrics are clever without being smart-assed, contributing to the album’s consistent quality. The only dissatisfying track is the 7-1/2 minute closer, “Happy Birthday Girl”. Lerche has talent to spare at the age of 24, but he seems too young for this kind of numbing self indulgence. Give him at least five more years before he does a lumbering double-disc Prog Rock tribute.

Buy the album at

Sondre Lerche plays the Clubhouse in Tempe with Willy Mason on March 19. says: The Autumn Defense

Note: This is the first of hopefully many quickie album reviews from Matt Hinrichs, a former co-worker of mine at The Arizona Republic and the proprietor of the great Matt is the man responsible for designing the excellent banner at Circa 45, and he’s got distinguished taste in music/arts, so I’m happy to have him add his editorial voice to the site.

The Autumn Defense
self-titled (Broadmoor Records)

The Autumn Defense serves as a mellow side project for multi-instrumentalists and Wilco members John Stirratt and Pat Sansone. Though both hail from the Midwest, from a few listens to their self-titled third album I would gather that their hearts are forever in Laurel Canyon, circa 1971. Their sound is vaguely reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, or even Bread — but this is no goofy pastiche. If fact, wide-eyed earnestness might as well be the album’s overwhelming theme. Such a project would be impossible to do without succumbing to every kind of “sensitive man” cliché, but strangely enough they pull it off beautifully. The entire album is surprisingly, consistently good — but if I could recommend a single track for download, it would be the gorgeously soulful Feel You Now. The duo aim for a classic Al Green-ish feel here, but like the rest of the album it has a timelessness which gets richer with every listen.

  • The Autumn Defense | Feel You Now

Buy the self-titled album at Broadmoor Records.

The Autumn Defense plays Modified in Phoenix on Thursday with the Broken West. Buy tickets.