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Sixty Stories, Anthem Red (Smallman)
This album's title might lead you to expect communist folk songs, solidarity-building singalongs for striking workers, and maybe a rousing rendition of "The Internationale". But, alas, Western Canada's Sixty Stories are not reds at all, and here there's little trace of political consciousness, save for a faint, implicit feminism. The band plays a familiar up-tempo, guitar-driven pop augmented by simple but well-conceived keyboard touches employed for melodic enhancement rather than faddish cachet. Often analog synth sounds are used the way hipsters use old t-shirts from athletic programs at high schools they didn't attend, to conjure an air of ironic, knowing nostalgia and to express a futile derision of mass produced, force-fed novelty. There is an air of nostalgia to this record, but it is not smug or ironic in any way, rather it derives from an earnest, well-detailed rendering of post-adolescent concerns that never condescends to or exploits its audience. Singer/guitarist Jo Snyder's deep alto voice takes some getting used to, but ultimately feels well suited to her material. Her gangly, unpredictable spurts of emphasis match the awkward ambivalence of the situations she relates.