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Sleepyhead
The Brighter Shore
(Sealed Fate)


Various Artists
Mystique
(Sealed Fate)
by Sarah Zupko


flyseville-sleepyhead-mystique.jpg


Judging from this trio of new releases, Boston-based Sealed Fate Records is primed to join the elite of small pop labels whose output is uniformly excellent—I’m thinking of spinART, Kindercore, Parasol, Big Deal and Not Lame. Last year’s Push Kings release set the standard and now the Fly Seville and Sleepyhead are here to answer the challenge.


The Fly Seville, a Boston by-way-of Providence band, boasts a unique and hypnotic sound with the supple vocals of Jesse Blatz and the enchanting, chiming keyboards and violin of Stacy Joy. With certain nods to Galaxie 500, the Fly Seville’s singular talent springs from their richly textured songs and their utterly brilliant use of space and dynamics as something of an instrument in its own right. If I had to pick an obvious standout, it would be “The Taj Mahal of America,” which possesses the hallmarks of fine pop songwriting—a thoroughly natural and engaging melody combined with a sing-songy style and non-typical instrumentation that lifts the group above the majority of the pack.


Whereas the Fly Seville traffic in chamber pop, Sleepyhead have more of a new wave edge and are on the more relentlessly cheery side, to quite good effect I might add. The tone is set from the start with the chirpy, boy/girl vocals of “Song for the Pied Piper,” sporting to-die-for harmonies and a bunch of vocalized “do, do, do’s” that ably substitute for a synthesizer in creating a serious new wave vibe.


As both a charity album (with proceeds going to AIDS research) and as a document of the evolving Sealed Fate sound, Mystique is a very wise buy indeed. From the sophisticated Barcelona synthpop of Astrud to the soulful bubblegum ditties of the Push Kings, Mystique showcases the staggering diversity of the Sealed Fate artists. New York’s Garlands show immense promise with their melodic rock that combines the sensitive, ever-so-slightly-gloomy, Morrissey-styled lead vocals and bass-driven melody that recalls New Order. You can also sample the best tracks from the Fly Seville and Sleepyhead on this collection as well.

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