If it wasn’t already apparent from the wealth of great pop albums in 1998, the early output in 1999 makes the case that we are in the midst of a great pop renaissance. And for once, British bands are not instigating it—although you could argue the popularity of Britpop paved the way in the American market for pop records. But the American pop resurgence contains little of the parochialism of New Britannia chic and is being driven by the Elephant 6 and like-minded groups who possess an experimental spirit and a desire to move beyond pop formula and create brand-new sounds.
Case in point, The Albemarle Sound proves the Ladybug Transistor is a standard-bearer of this new “movement.” Bearing an obvious debt to the orchestral pop of The Left Banke (“Walk Away Renee”) and the Zombies, Brooklyn’s very own wend their way through a slate of pristine, pastoral music that seems so thoroughly out of place in Manhattan’s eastern cousin on first glance. But then the songs invoke images of parks, oceans, beaches, and bays that stretch out from Brooklyn across Long Island. Characterized by luxuriant harmonies, irresistible hooks, and clever, creative instrumentation that includes swathes of pianos and strings alongside flutes, clarinets, and mandolins, The Albemarle Sound is all the evidence anyone needs that American pop bands are no longer playing catch-up with their European cousins.