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(Beggars Banquet)

It’s quite a remarkable trick of reinvention to morph from the utter lameness of EMF into the indie pop chic of Whistler. Yet that is exactly what Ian Dench has done, trading in joke Britrock for sensitive fey pop ala Belle & Sebastian with a real olde tyme English sensibility. Dench’s intricate acoustic guitar stylings are perfectly paired with Kerry Shaw’s airy and serene vocals, while James Topham’s elegant viola gives every song a mark of originality.

Whistler is awash in lovely, pensive tunes that artfully contrast spare acoustic guitar sections with lush arrangements featuring viola, droning bass lines, heavenly harmonies, and drums that, every so often, sound like they’ve been borrowed from a drum’n'bass session. They even toss in the exotic jews-harp on their first single “Rare American Shoes.” So English is this music that you often feel like you should be chewing on a turkey leg at a Renaissance faire. So gorgeous and hypnotic is Whistler’s folk pop that you may find yourself hunting down the group’s import singles for some tasty B-sides.


Sarah Zupko founded PopMatters, one of the largest independent cultural criticism magazines on the web, back in the Internet's early days of 1999. Zupko is a former Executive Producer for Tribune Media Services, the media syndication arm of the Tribune Company, and a 10-year veteran of Tribune. Her other pursuits involve writing historical fiction and research in the fields of Slavic and German history, as well as general European cultural and intellectual history. Zupko studied musicology, film, and drama at the University of Chicago and media theory at the University of Texas, where she received her M.A.

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