It sounds so powerfully familiar: young group of computer-savvy go-getters favor laptops over guitars, trying to write Postal Service-styled ditties filled with enough emotional gravitas to avoid the inevitable Postal Service comparison. When Hot Chip took a stab at it, critics (including the Mercury Music Prize committee) took notice, with Generation Blogger following shortly behind. Needless to say, the notion of yet another drum-machine wielding act entering the already-cluttered genre isn’t really that grand of a prospect. Cassettes Won’t Listen—already a few years old and filled with lots of keyboard-happy singles—have finally gotten around to releasing their first physical release, the Small-Time Machine EP. There’s a been-here heard-that quality to the first trio of songs: well-constructed electro-numbers that can’t decide whether or not they want to be standalone songs or just low-level candidates for Erlend Øye‘s next DJ-Kicks anthology.
Yet the game completely changes when “Freeze and Explode” enters the mix. This stunning, gorgeous, flawless pop song just explodes off of the speakers, filled with an incredible sense of rising catharsis. It demands your attention, simply because it is one of the best songs that 2008 has produced to date. Yet the real surprise is that “Freeze and Explode” is no fluke: it’s followed by two equally strong (but not as immediately grabbing) songs called “The Broadcast” (where the Explosions in the Sky suddenly decide they want a Modern Rock Chart hit) and “Two Kids” (which is basically an instant dorm-room dance party). Yet a three-out-of-four score does not make a legend. The group has plenty of room to improve, but when the highs are as stratospheric as “Freeze and Explode”, it’s really hard to chastise the rest of the disc for being “merely good.” Add to your Bands To Watch feed now.
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