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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007 01:54 am

When anywhere is local

This is no Miami sound machine — these Floridians have killed regionalism

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The Postmarks The Postmarks (Unfiltered/World’s Fair)
Untitled Document They may hail from balmy Miami, but the Postmarks certainly have a yen for the changing seasons. Their debut full-length boasts such climatologically perverse song titles as “Summers Never Seem to Last,” “Looks Like Rain,” and “Winter Spring Summer Fall” — concepts that are as far removed from most Floridians’ experience as thermal underwear and salt trucks. Wouldn’t it make more sense for these Sunshine Staters to sing about skin cancer and hurricanes? Sorry, Charlie, but no. Despite the obsolete assumptions of rap-magazine editors, regionalism — at least the kind that’s defined by geography — is dead. If television didn’t kill it, the Internet did, and MySpace is merely scattering its cremains. Welcome to Notropolis, where Texans can ape Thom Yorke, where Irish lassies can impersonate honky-tonk angels, and where the Postmarks can pretend that it’s April in Paris or autumn in Vermont. Besides, as pathetic fallacies go, cooler conditions suit the Postmarks’ wistful, evanescent sound a lot better than the sultry climate of their native habitat ever could. Songwriter/multiinstrumentalist Christopher Moll and the equally versatile Jonathan Wilkins clearly adore the meticulous orchestrations of Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, and Burt Bacharach; younger chamber-pop disciples Jon Brion and, in particular, the High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan are also relevant touchstones. Augmented by a dozen-or-so guest musicians, including Andy Chase (of Ivy and Tahiti 80), these 11 miniconcerti are lovingly crafted, peppered with sophisticated polyrhythms and drizzled with cornets and clarinets, harpsichords and violas, flutes and vibraphones — in sum, all the makings of a teenage symphony to God. Factor in chanteuse Tim Yehezkely (yes, she’s a woman), whose small, sweet, uninflected warble resembles that of Gallic phenom Keren Ann, and you’ve got yourself a regular swoonfest. Although Yehezkely’s lyrics are a tad precious in places, encumbered by elaborate metaphors and groan-worthy puns, the purity of her voice usually redeems them. When it doesn’t, well, that’s where the top-notch accompaniment comes in handy: a twinge of pedal-steel twang that sneaks into a somber waltz, a volley of bells that follows a crazy theremin interlude, a dizzy organ vamp that swooshes in from nowhere. Standout tracks such as the sprightly, toy-piano-driven “Goodbye” and the incongruously jaunty, string-drenched “Let Go” could easily be sung in pig Latin or Esperanto and they’d be just as lovely.

Prototypes, a Parisian trio that specializes in giddy electropunk and dirty throb-pop, dropped its American debut last summer, but somehow I missed it, and I suspect that most of you did, too. Tant pis, hein? Mais non! That’s why January, also known as drought month, exists: so that those of us who track new releases get the chance to play catch-up. In any case, there’s something deliciously subversive about listening to such blatantly summery music in the dead of winter; it’s like taking the top down on your mental convertible. Although Prototypes isn’t as original as its moniker implies — at least not if you’ve ever heard Chicks on Speed and Stereo Total — it’s a very good time regardless. Singer/snarler Isabelle Le Doussal looks a little like Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and her voice has a similar lusty insolence; bassist/keyboardist Stéphane Bodin and guitarist François Marché extract every possible drop of energy from hoary three-chord progressions and beat-on-the-brat beats. To say that they’re a mash-up made flesh does them no great disservice. From the bristling post-punk of “Un Brin de Fierté” to the Buzzcocks-meets-Blondie fuzz-bomb of “Danse sur la Merde” to the Peaches-esque burlesque of “Tir aux Pigeons,” the Prototypes prove that you don’t have to be first to be fun.
Contact René Spencer Saller at rssaller@core.com
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