The Ladybug Transistor
"The Ladybug Transistor"
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The adventurous Brooklyn five have packed their bags full of sunscreen and pop masterpieces and headed west for the dusty sunsets of Arizona. There, in collaboration with producer Craig Schumacher, they have fashioned their fifth , and most gloriously consistent , album. Less psych-folk than previous works, the new album is lush, unhurried, and beautifully arranged. Vocally, Gary Olson's warm baritone and Sasha Bell’s angelic naivete playfully intermingle, the results of which are sentimental, charming, and downright dreamy. It’s all sun-drenched, wholesome electric pianos, trumpets, strings, and brown Telecasters. And honestly, what more could one desire in one’s life?
1) These Days In Flames
2) In December
4) Song for the Ending Day
5) Choking on Air
6) The Places You'll Call Home
8) Please Don't Be Long
9) NY - San Anton
10) Hangin' On the Line
11) A Burial at Sea
12) Splendor in the Grass
13) The Last Gent
by pop music, yet it's rare to find full albums packed solid
with irresistible, brain-picking hooks, melodies so catchy you can identify
the exact note or syllable that addicts you. How I Learned to Write Backwards
is the rare exception. Never merely "nice" or "fun,"
Amy Linton's songs are chiseled like diamonds, and set to some of the
ever taped in somebody's basement.
and lighter on the guitars than the Aislers Set's first two
indie quintet becomes a pop orchestra. The band's music is denser
than ever before, laden with sleigh bells, handclaps and horns piled atop
the conventional guitars, drums, bass and keyboards-- and all are drenched
in cavernous reverb, providing the ambiance and intimacy of a gigantic,
empty concert hall. And yet, this is also a noise-pop band: Beneath
the layers of instrumentation, the music is propped up on barbed wire,
unsteady and ready to topple.
are short: The single, "Missions Bells", is one of the few to
two minutes, and "Langour in the Balcony" seems to end before
started. And the band cuts quickly from one influence to the nextthe
gingerbread candy house of "The Train #1" runs into the rumbling
on "The Train #2"; the massive, verbose pop of "Attraction
balances the spooky-bleak voice and barely-the-will-to-strum guitar
on "Unfinished Paintings". The noise makes the pop spark, and
influence makes the nervous energy digestible. Linton mixes and paces
all of these elements flawlessly, but what's more, the engineering is
extraordinary for its budget, carefully crafted but fun and spontaneous
problem is Linton's singing. It's not that she's not a great singer (well,
maybe partly)-- the issue is how she records her voice. On almost every
track, she Spectorizes herself in oblivion with effects and reverb added
to, presumably, lend a distant and dreamy effect. Sometimes it works (the
late-night loneliness on "Unfinished Paintings" is poignant),
but at other times, she sounds completely displaced. The most unfortunate
example of this comes on the album's closer, "Melody Not Malaise",
where the band is recorded with minimal post-production trickery while
Linton is mixed far too low beneath the instrumentation, and reverbed
into the stratosphere. Maybe she's not happy with how her voice or words
sound unaided, but I'd rather be given the opportunity to connect to them
than be left guessing.
may be How I Learned to Write Backwards' only shortcoming, and
when stacked up against such effortless, finely-crafted pop tracks, it
almost seems trivial. These songs are blanketed in a magnetic charisma,
and contain a vigor and effortlessness that projects youthful vitality
and a joyousness unhampered by looming adult concerns. It's pure fun--
insanely, immediately likable, and ingenious in how much it achieves.
— Chris Dahlen
"Finishing School got 8 out of 10, Ladybug Transistor got 9 out of 10.
“Where Neutral Milk Hotel sometimes sounds like the school orchestra from hell that has had an enormous amount of bad liquor and Beatles’ "I am the Walrus”, Ladybug Transistor still sounds innocent. When I met them for the first time at Belle & Sebastian’s Bowlie Weekender last spring I had to touch Sasha Bell to make sure that her elf-like creature wasn’t an illusion.”
ThorbjĂ¶rn ThorsĂ©n, Benno #4, Januari 2000.
When the quote above was written Ladybug Transistor from New York had released three records “The Albemarle Sound” was the latest and it was so soft, so hopelessly frail and blue-eyed that you couldn’t help but – just as the author – being amazed by its gentleness.
Sasha Bell looked, and still looks, just like an elf and yes, she sang, and still sings, like an angel. Today, her first solo album under the name Finishing School is just out, but where is the innocence? Well, in a time when even Britney Spears smokes and makes out in the street also the angels are falling. To a place where innocence is neither worth striving for or welcome.
“Destination Girl” opens with Sasha, with just her pride and her name left, takes the train to Reno. Leaves Marlborough Road but not her history. Sasha solo refines the characteristics she’s shown as a part of Essex Green and Ladybug Transistor. The result may – not very surprisingly, maybe – extremely sixties influenced folk pop with beautifully orchestrated melodies. In “Rowan’s Theme” she shamelessly rips off early Byrds, and while she’s at it she borrows Love’s strings, while a song like “Hair” has a much darker tone ad more sounds like something Velvet Underground could have made if they had been teleported back from 1967. Never has her light voice sounded better, and if it wasn’t for the fact that Ladybug Transistor weren’t too bad themselves, Finishing School would have been as good a reason as any to question why Sasha Bell would need her other bands for.
But now Ladybug Transistor are doing quite well too. Even if they leave New York already in the album title, which for the first time in five records don’t have any reference to the Brooklyn blocks that are the home of the band. If the Finishing School is solely Sasha Bell’s project, then “Ladybug
Transistor” is Gary Olson’s album. He only shares the microphone twice; eleven of the thirteen songs are his, and never have Ladybug Transistor sounded so thoroughly worked out and played so well.
Olson still holds on to Carpenters’ and – maybe first of all – Bacharach’s hands, but are just as much folk rock as soft pop nowadays. Sometimes, as in “Choking on Air”, the rhythm even breathes of jazz, or as in “The Places You’ll Call Home”, where Sasha actually sings, you can feel a darkness and a drama that you’ve never heard from these light-hearted flower children before.
The romantic, with its innocence, which had pop writers to wide-eyed touch Sasha Bell, has died down. Turned to ashes and carbon. Underneath it, there’s something completely different – something better. A band that doesn’t have to be protected at all costs anymore.
Ladybug Transistor, and Sasha Bell, have finally left the safe home quarters of Brooklyn. The fall of 2003 there are no limits to how far they can go. " Sonic (#13, fall 2003), Swedish music magazine
"The Ladybug Transistor are a dying breed when it comes to musicianship these days. Somewhat like America's version of Belle & Sebastian, The Ladybug Transistor compose and perform delicate yet rocking songs suitable for a tea party on some clean blotter. Their latest offering, the self-titled The Ladybug Transistor exists at the crossroads of indie/alt-rock and music your parents might dig! Gary Olson's soothing baritone makes you feel like you're in one hell of a cool elevator. Soothing in the aspects that many kids probably won't find appealing until they hit their mid to late twenties. The Ladybug Transistor's music can best be described as music for people who can read... well. 'Choking On Air' sounds like New Pornographers material, only with that tasteful Ladybug Transistor edge to the pop-appeal. Keeping things close, Olson recruited brother and sister duo Jeff and Jennifer Baron to handle duties on guitar and bass, with San Fadyl on drums and Sasha Bell rounding off the line-up on keyboards and vocals, The Ladybug Transistor's classic pop arrangements take on a modern technique that is unique during an era where 'indie' clones are a dime a dozen and everyone's parents' garage also happens to be their 'practice space'. God speed The Ladybug Transistor." Gordon Downs, www.guerillaone.com
"The Southwest, with its soft colors and spare, beautiful deserts has been
an alluring getaway for artists overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of
urban life, from Georgia O'Keefe to indie rockers The Handsome Family,
Calexico, and Giant Sand. The Ladybug Transistor chose to record their
latest album at Tucson's Wavelab Studios, and the Brooklyn bands journey
Tucson follows some significant changes in its eight year history,
massive success in Europe and the departure of longtime member Jennifer
Baron. It's no wonder the albums recurring themes include travel, the
future, and renewal.
Singer - trumpeter Gary Olson's wonderfully rich baritone sentimentally
recalls a surreal journey to London, India, and the Spanish coast in the
lush masterpiece "In December" The songs elaborate orchestral
reminiscent of Burt Bacharach and could easily pass as a black and white
film score. In "3 = Wild" the band contemplates "pack[ing] the cards
fold[ing] the table and escaping. This somber folk piece is similar to
Parsons' heartbreaking ballads. "Song for the Ending Day" has a charming,
slightly loungey feel to it. The trumpet and Sasha Bell's back up vocals
particular recall the Spanish pop group Le Mans.
Bell sings lead on a few of the songs. The best being "The Places You'll
Call Home", an upbeat song that explores the prospect of of the future of
"all the people and the places and the color of things". "Hangin on the
Line" is slightly new wavy and sounds like it could be a lost Vaselines
song. "Splendor in the Grass" and "A Burial at Sea" are strong folk
the latter an especially magnificent Byrds-esque gem that features some
finger-picking and harmonies.
The Ladybug Transistor's sojourn to New Mexico proved fruitful. It's
songwriting is polished, it successfully explores new different sounds,
it's thoughtful lyrics gives us a glimpse into the the ups and downs of
band's experience traveling the world. The Ladybug Transistor is open to
change and with this flexible and inquisitive nature it should have no
problem putting out a steady succession of interesting albums in the
future." Venus Magazine Fall 2003 - Karen Choy
"9 (out of 10)
Every so often you have to let go of your hardcore tendencies and wallow in
some soothing pop. And here's that bouncy, orchestral delight at it's best.
When Sasha Bell and Gary Olson harmonize, it feels like they've just taken
your heart, rolled it in a Phillie, and smoked it on a Sunday afternoon.
Like a less quirky, more serious Magnetic Fields with a smattering of twang,
they are absolute trumpet, organ, tambourine, and sunshine-in-meadows
goodness. It's no wonder they all live on some perfect commune out in
-Joy Wang" Vice Magazine, Vol 10 issue 3, October 2003
"The Ladybug Transistor is the rarest gem in the New York rock landscape. For
the past 10 years or so, the band has quietly put out grandiose, layered and
perfectly arranged orchestral pop. Mind you, these musicians -- attractive,
young and talented -- have never graced the cover of The Fader, or took part
in Fashion Week, or dated celebrities. Sure, they were a part of the whole
Elephant 6 thing, if only in name, and they have dabbled in side projects,
such as the excellent Essex Green, and you may recognize their tune in a
Citibank commercial. But no one stopped the presses.
The Ladybug Transistor, the band's fourth full-length, will probably not get
them the accolades and attention they deserve. It is nevertheless a giant
leap forward for the band. Whereas all of Ladybug's previous records had a
home-recorded feel, cultivated in frontman Gary Olson's Brooklyn-area
Marlborough Farms recording studio, The Ladybug Transistor was recorded in
Tuscon with Craig Schumacher (Calexico, Giant Sand). This new input is
present in every element of the record: the drumbeats are crisper, the vocals
are at the forefront, and the band sounds more confident than ever.
In fact, with The Ladybug Transistor, Gary Olson and Co. are starting to
sound even more like their friends and contemporaries Belle and Sebastian,
but in the good ways. The trumpet comes in at the perfect time on "Hangin' On
the Line," the keyboards are all over the place, and there's more vocal
gender mix-up. Ladybug vocalist Sasha Bell could out-sing ex-B&S chanteuse
Isobell Campbell any day, and she proves it with the stunning album
centerpiece "The Places You'll Call Home." Olson croons confidently
throughout the record, and with "These Days in Flames," "In December"
and "The Last Gent," he has churned out his finest work to date.
The album includes guest spots from various Merge Records artists, from Paul
Niehaus (Lambchop, Calexico) on pedal steel to Dennis Cronin (Lambchop) on
trumpet, which only adds to the accomplishment that this album is for the
band. They even add a perfect and suitable cover of "Splendor in the Grass"
by singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon. This is Ladybug at its most mature;
The Ladybug Transistor provides an excellent starting point for new fans to
backtrack through the excellent catalogue of one of New York's finest bands.
- Kevin Dolak" Prefixmag.com
"For their last few albums, The Ladybug Transistor have been moving toward a heavily insulated (if not downright tranquilized) folk-rock sound -- the sort of thing I, for one, associate with "beautiful music" radio stations, lingering headaches, Sunday afternoon trips to stores that sell garden statuary, and yellowing photographs of relatives wearing the sort of luridly plaid clothing people only ever seem to wear in yellowing photographs. If you can't divine the compliment in that sentence, I'll explain it in less eccentric terms: the group's dense arrangements achieve an impressive stillness. So tightly do the songs wrap around you, and so thoroughly do they block out other sensory input, that you'll swear the music was written for you alone.
That's why The Ladybug Transistor is something of an about-face for the group. For the first time, they've gone outside their Marlborough Farms compound, putting recording duties in the capable hands of Wavelab Studios' Craig Schumacher. With a "middleman" between band and listener, the aforementioned one-to-one connection loses a bit of its intensity, as if the group has taken a half-step backward and is now content to linger in the outer reaches of your personal space. Lest you misunderstand, this is not a failure but a sign of artistic maturity; like the clingy girlfriend/boyfriend who wakes up one morning and discovers self-confidence, Gary Olson and his bandmates have realized that we'll pay attention to them even if they don't get all cloying on us (though in all fairness, they did cloying really well). It's fitting, then, that The Ladybug Transistor have waited until now to release a self-titled album. The Ladybug Transistor is a veritable reboot.
Ladybug frontman Gary Olson is still a crooner. In an age when most indie bands pursue unaffectedness to a fault, he teeters on the edge of lounge singer parody, and because The Ladybug Transistor's production has backed off of the whole Huge Wet-Blankety Arms Wrapping Around You immersiveness and weapons-grade reverb thing, his performance sticks out a little bit more this time around. He goes over the top in a few places -- I noticed it in "NY - San Anton" and the over-enunciated, Jim Ruiz-haunted "Choking on Air" -- but it's not unpleasant; you may simply wonder where the sincere emoting ends and the Brooklyn hipster irony kicks in. Or perhaps it's just the incongruity of hearing such a big voice coming out of such a lanky guy. Sasha Bell tackles lead vocals on "The Places You'll Call Home" and "Hangin' on the Line", and her intriguingly nasal delivery suggests a handful of sixties icons, Nico included. "Hangin' on the Line" offers a particular challenge: it's the album's most vigorous tune, more conventionally upbeat and "rocking" than most of the group's material, and riddled with unusual rhythmic switches. If you're not thrown by the chorus's initially unpredictable turns, it's because Bell has you hooked.
Musically, The Ladybug Transistor is par for the band's multi-instrumental course -- it's jam-packed with keyboards, strings and horns, and violin, cello and pedal steel enhance a handful of songs. Sometimes this works against the group; Olson's vocals notwithstanding, the sleepy, pedal-steel-accented "3=Wild" sounds like too many other songs on too many other relatively current albums (I can already see myself overusing the phrase "ubiquitous pedal steel" in the coming months). Otherwise, Ladybug Transistor deliver on our heightened expectations. We know they're capable of something more than the standard guitar/bass/drums troika, and they prove us right -- but with admirable restraint. Nothing here sounds like an instrumental stunt.
Lyrically, the group still strives for a mix of bookish profundity and emotional shorthand; if you're lucky enough to derive deeper meaning from these lyrics (it's likely to be a right-place, right-time thing), you'll think Olson and his cohorts are brilliant. There are a few "what the fuck" moments, like "Song for the Ending Day"'s woodsy opening lines ("It could take a year to climb all the hills in the Catskills"), but the album's obligatory cover -- Jackie DeShannon's florid "Splendor in the Grass" -- is a timely reminder of what truly ham-fisted prose sounds like ("The first time I was ever kissed / the very first person I did miss").
The Ladybug Transistor's relative lack of instrumental bravado suggests renewed confidence; the group doesn't make an obvious attempt to hook us with atmosphere or instrumental stunts, because the album already has enough going on to keep us listening. They are still capable of brilliance, but no longer pursue it so doggedly. They entertain us, because they (and we) know they can. Like the album cover's smooth, clean lines (another break with Ladybug tradition), their songs have been relieved of clutter and baggage and needless filigree, leaving the best and purest ideas to flourish. It's an important step for a band poised on the edge of great success -- and a decisive move beyond the limitations of yellowing photos and barbituate-friendly folk-rock.
-- George Zahora" Splendid E-zine
It's easy to dismiss the Ladybug Transistor as just another prototypically sweet-faced, baroque-inclined indie pop ensemble-- or, if you're feeling charitable, an indie pop ensemble with unusually delicate arrangements and impressive longevity. But the band's careful mastery of pop precision and 60s bubblegum swells demands a far more thorough assessment (even if it winds up leading to an inevitable Neil-Diamond-by-way-of-Crooked-Fingers comparison). Since their 1996 debut, Marlborough Farms, The Ladybug Transistor have wed lush, rolling melodies to oddly somber lyrics, folding in a barnyard full of sounds (baritone harmonica, keyboards, flute, organs, flitting chamber-pop strings, horns, 12-string guitar, and the soft, sliding background vocals of keyboardist Sasha Bell) and crafting a perfectly orchestrated whole.
Frontman Gary Olsen's voice-- a deep, steady warble as smooth as wet, worn pebbles, and just as cold and gray-- is so expertly controlled that it often borders on unnerving. But he'll switch gears unexpectedly, too, as easily forcing out a jolly, disembodied coo, taunting and sinister, the perfect, chuckling counterpoint to whatever shit in your universe is currently falling apart. Like the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, Olsen's lauded for his songwriting prowess more often than his creepy pipes, but the remnants of both are guaranteed to stick around long after the record has been shelved.
It might seem odd that The Ladybug Transistor waited until their unceremonious fifth studio album to go all eponymous, but it's an appropriate concession given the circumstances: The Ladybug Transistor, recorded in Tucson last spring with producer Craig Schumacher (Calexico, Neko Case), is the band's first album not recorded at Olsen's Brooklyn-based Malborough Farms studio. The relocation, however, hasn't had much of an impact on their sound: their influences (see: The Left Banke, The Smiths) and their collaborative spirit remain at the fore, with noteworthy contributions from Calexico's Paul Niehaus (on pedal steel) and Lambchop's Dennis Cronin (trumpet).
Opener "These Days in Flames" pits a textured, upbeat piano and guitar melody against some unpredictably explicit laments: "Every time it rains/ I'm running to my window/ To stare out at the same thing/ And cry." "3 = Wild" is a bit more forthcoming with its melancholy-- its slow, meandering vocal melody ("Joked about the burns on your neck/ Laughed, our bodies in smoke") drift in and out of pedal steel whines and shivering tambourines. Much like Olsen's vocals, the instrumentation here is always impeccably rendered, each shift meticulously planned, every component expertly placed, each note purred in pitch-perfect harmony.
Consequently, The Ladybug Transistor might initially seem disarmingly untouchable here, their unfaltering movements too tweaked and controlled to ever be entirely accessible to folks in plain clothes. But there's an undercurrent of darkness on this record-- particularly in Olsen's on-the-verge voice and lyrics-- that ultimately prevents the band from ever wheeling too far out of reach.
-Amanda Petrusich, October 9th, 2003" Pitchfork Media
"THE LADYBUG TRANSISTOR
by Astrid Harders
What happens when you're faced with the prospect of your fifth album and decide to leave your home studio headquarters for the first time? For the Ladybug Transistor, a great record happened. This is friendly, layered and meticulously crafted pop with lots and lots of flair. I haven't really listened to what this Velvet Underground/Pulp male voice is saying; all I know is that tambourines, keyboard-flooded choruses and sporadic rock & roll guitars have never sounded this right together. The trumpets, cellos and male-female vocals undeniably make this a pleasant listen, an exciting alternative to hyper-melodic Britpop and somehow a classy vintage form of entertainment. My goodness, right there, the track numbered with a six, "The Places You'll Call Home," has just made my day, my week, my musical hopes fly higher; somebody give this band a useful award. This shall now be the album I call home. It's a nice feeling; you should try it out.
by Astrid Harders" Boston Weekly Dig
"by Gerald Hamm
Ladybug Transistor has delivered their baroque pop masterpiece. Their new, self-titled album is a far more upbeat serving than their last full-length, 2001's "Argyle Heir," and in general a new vitality flows throughout this richly textured release. Taking a recording holiday away from their Marlborough Farms studio in Brooklyn, the group traveled west to Tucson and enlisted Calexico/Giant Sand producer Craig Schumaker for the knob turning. Gary Olson's baritone voice is honey-thick as ever, supported by the skilled band plus several auxiliary players including Lambchop trumpeter Dennis Cronin and Lambchop/Calexico contributor Paul Niehaus on the pedal steel. During "In December," guitar, piano and trumpet trade countermelodies as Olson documents a romantic travelogue winding from London to India, while instrumentally, the music makes lilting twists and turns with soaring strings and cinematic breaks. Sasha Bell steps to the center mic for a few tracks, "The Places You Call Home" and "Hangin' On the Line," her voice providing a sweet counterbalance to Olson's deeper croon.
Most bands would kill for the consistent quality of songs that Ladybug Transistor has offered with their releases, but impressively, their fifth album is undoubtedly their best and most varied collection to date." Other Music
"With a librarian's determination, the Ladybug Transistor collects scraps of pop's past and present only to rearrange them neatly on their wonderful new self-titled set. Sixties-style guitars and orchestration meet indie rock's disinterested vocals and uncomplicated rhythms. Add a gloss of horns, keyboards and strings and there emerges a sound so altogether obvious and effortless, it becomes new and irresistible. Like the Magnetic Fields, this quintet plays with an easygoing slickness as Gary Olson's choirboy, monotonic croon splits the vocals with Sasha Bell's lazy but candied alto. They trade unnerving, puzzling portraits of life's pedestrian moments. "On the morning train I watch your face grow warm/but at this altitude we are melting here, and there's little I can do," sings Bell on the motherly "The Places You Call Home." On this their fourth effort, the Brooklyn band is as head-bopping as it is head-scratching -- a charming, cryptic and contemporary collection of familiarity. (BENJAMIN FRIEDLAND)" Rolling Stone Magazine
"Merge Records has long been defined more by ideas than any particular sound or feel to the music released by its artists. Unlike Ian MacKayeâ€™s Dischord, Merge has not focused exclusively on local bands, nor does it feature a shared musical approach. Superchunkâ€™s Mac and Laura instead have fostered a broad â€ścommunityâ€ť consisting of bands they like, which could mean a local upstart or the new record from the Buzzcocks. Merge has (justifiably) been praised for years, producing some classic records and maintaining a level of quality such that you could safely buy a Merge record without knowing a thing about the band. But the label was often defined more by what it wasnâ€™t than what it was.
This has begun to change slightly, though not because of a drop in quality or some kind of aesthetic doldrums. Rather, a group of bands on the roster have quietly built up a sound based around pop classicism, able musicianship, and a post-modern sense of disjunction and inclusion. Bands like the Essex Green, Matt Suggs, newcomers the Rosebuds, and the Ladybug Transistor have, more or less accidentally, finally created a â€śMerge soundâ€ť, although it is typically idiosyncratic and hard to place. The forefathers of this sound, the Ladybug Transistor, have been quietly honing their lush, formalist pop for years in a sleepy Brooklyn neighborhood. Located just south of Prospect Park, itâ€™s a slightly faded, dated area of creaky Victorian homes and stately apartment buildings, timeless in a forgotten way. Seemingly miles away from the noise and flash of Manhattan, itâ€™s a place that could exist almost anywhere, at any time in the last thirty years. Almost nothing here betrays change or â€śprogressâ€ť, and although it is distinctly urban, it betrays few of the trappings that weâ€™ve grown accustomed to in our consumer-oriented cities. As such, itâ€™s the perfect place to make music or write, a place so immediately dull that it becomes slightly thrilling, a blank slate rather than an information-saturated labyrinth. You can be or make anything you want here, and that would seem to suit the Ladybug Transistor perfectly.
Although shamelessly eclectic and retro in their references, the Transistor are not pumping life into dead music or ripping off their forebears. They do make use of certain sounds and strategies employed by the Beach Boys, Burt Bacharach, Scott Walker, et al., but they primarily return to these sources for a deeper philosophical inspiration. â€śThe Places Youâ€™ll Call Homeâ€ť is a fine example of the Ladybug Transistorâ€™s ability to effortlessly channel a feeling or a perspective, rather than a particular sound. Although the refrainâ€™s lyrics feature a tip to the Velvets, the song is a perfect distillation of everything that was sharp, intelligent, and musically sophisticated about British pop, from the Kinks to Walker to early Bowie. Itâ€™s a cool, precise song whose melodic flourishes and vocal restraint hint at a much deeper emotional life below the songâ€™s surface.
Although keyboardist Sasha Bell sings lead on â€śThe Places Youâ€™ll Call Homeâ€ť, the majority of songwriting and singing belongs to founding member Gary Olson, whose even baritone gives the often bouncy songs a tugging undertow. Olson does not possess a naturalistic vocal style; he sings in a very considered, somewhat self-conscious way, giving the songs a rather fascinating self-awareness. The band both seamlessly inhabits their sounds and stands outside of it, using its various elements to very specific ends.
If labelmates the Essex Green are the Jefferson Airplane, then the Ladybug Transistor are the Mamas and the Papas, a group defined by its bond as a unit and an obsession with place. Travel, long-distance relationships, and the outdoors are recurring lyrical themes, and although the band writes in its house in Brooklyn, they wisely decamped to Arizona for the albumâ€™s recording. This fairly extreme change of locale seems to have given the band a greater sense of energy than on previous albums, a focused and understated swagger, rather than the politeness which occasionally marred their earlier work. Here, the harmonies and surging melodies feel natural and completely spontaneous, pop as a relaxed outpouring of sound.
If there is a â€śMerge soundâ€ť, it is, like all other â€śsoundsâ€ť before it, highly subjective and ephemeral. It may speak of the larger influence that Merge bands are having, or it may simply be a coincidence. The Ladybug Transistor have been around long enough to transcend such qualifications, and they have a sureness about them that places them beyond mere replicators of influence. Smart, slightly romantic, witty and self-aware, the songs on this record exist on their own terms, intent on creating their own pop myths and resonances. Holed up in their Brooklyn digs, the band probably could care less about any talk of â€śsoundsâ€ť or scenes, or what their exact references might be. Rather, they will, it would seem, continue to live in their own, remote part of the city, scoring music to their particular and very personal imaginations.
By Jason Dungan" Dusted Magazine
"Enduring Brooklyn collective fills its songwriting lungs with Arizona air.
Anyone disappointed by Belle and Sebastian's lumpy new album should lift their heads from their Isobel Campbell pillowcases, dry their eyes and investigate The Ladybug Transistor's fifth album. Anchored by the conversational, David Berman-like voice of frontman Gary Olson, these richly arranged songs are delicate without being twee, enthralled by future-facing polo-necked '60's pop yet too alert to the wonders of modern life to be sucked into the over-reverent airlock inhabited by The High Llamas. Recorded in Tucson with Giant Sand associate Craig Schumacher and guest musicians from Lambchop, the Jim O'Rourke twang of A Burial at Sea or the trumpet- shiny sophistication of NY-San Anton highlight the quintet's lyrical grace, a band who understand the difference between elegantly world-weary and just plain tired.
- Victoria Segal " Mojo January 2004
"**** (Out of five)
Joyous 60's-tinged pop from New York Quartet
Brooklyn's Ladybug Transistor have taken the brave step of recording their fifth album outside their Marlborough Farms retreat. The result is a sort of glorious record Greenwich Village Beatniks would make if they'd been hibernating for 40 years. Gary Olson's smooth, mannered vocals catch the ear immediately: "I can't wait for this day to begin" he sings with the air of a lovestruck teenager, and you're with him all the way. But it' s the delicate instrumentation that wins you over. Having ditched synthesisers, muted trumpets and sparkling piano give tracks like In December the bright sheen of a sunny winter's day.
Martin O'Gorman" Q Magazine January 2004
"Fifth album of sumptuous orchestral pop
For those fragile days when The Magnetic Fields seem too harsh, The Ladybug Transistor await, An intelligent, sensitive and no doubt impeccably dressed five-piece, TLT are the last word in well-crafted pleasantness. Songs saunter contentedly along, equal parts butterscotch and benevolence, living in a gentle, pastoral 60's that never really existed. `3 = Wild' could be Lambchop preparing for a camping trip while `A Burial at Sea' and `Choking on Air' casually sketch the missing link between Burt Bacharach and Stephin Merrit. You do yearn for a hint of red meat but TLT are a quiet delight.
Ian Watson" NME January 2004
"**** (out of five)
Five Albums in, The TLT hit paydirt. Swapping their traditional Brooklyn
studio for Craig (Calexico) Schumacher's one, Gary Olson's low-slung croon -
a latter-day Edwyn Collins rolls across their most adventurous pop-baroque
melodies yet. With Lambchop contributors Paul Niehaus (steel) and Dennis
Cronin plumping the pillowy layers of strings, Staxy horns and chugging
organs, it's like Belle and Sebastian slopping sorbet with early Jonathan
Richman. Cherry on top is Sasha Bell's delicious turn on "The Places You'll
Rob Hughes" Uncut - February 2004