Posted by: on August 4, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Benji Hughes, A Love Extreme (New*West, 2008)

MP3: “Neighbor Down The Hall”

Whoever decided that an unknown former house painter from Charlotte, North Carolina who looks like he escaped from an Allman Brothers cover band — or perhaps My Morning Jacket — should release a double disc debut album, should totally get a raise. How the hell Benji Hughes managed to compile 25 tracks of charming, genre hopping pop brilliance without once missing the mark is anybody’s guess, but A Love Extreme plays effortlessly and has no filler. Hughes’ wit and writing style evoke indie savants like the Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt and Eels’ Mark Oliver Everett. The man’s got the skills of Beck, but with more facial hair and less Scientology. Whether he’s lamenting the fact that his neighbor would rather call and complain to the landlord than knock on his door to ask him to turn down his jambox, reminiscing about a night spent with friends at a Flaming Lips concert, or tenderly convincing a girl that falling in love with him is all she needs to do (“And everyday you don’t gets wasted, and every night alone is your fault…”), his charm is completely infectious. Before you know it, you’ve listened to both discs and are ready to start the whole thing over again. — Laura Witkowski

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Posted by: on July 16, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Loxsly, Flashlights (Self-Released, 2008)

MP3: “Speckled Eggs”

Austin’s Loxsly aren’t out to rewrite the book on pop with their recent Flashlights EP. The genre-busting indie-orchestras that have appeared more and more frequently over the past few years have left many bands questioning if two sousaphones is enough, or pondering how to squeeze in more hurdy-gurdy (Man Man, anyone?). By comparison, Loxsly — following up 2006′s cheap-keyboard infested Maps and Organs — appears like a fairly conventional rock band. Their sound hearkens back to a time when the indie rock was still just a little alt., and even their relative quirkiness is quaintly familiar.

The immediate reference point is the Eels, in no small part because Loxsly’s singer Cody Ground delivers melodies with the same frog-in-the-throat, deadpan delivery of Mark Oliver Everett. That the first song on the EP is entitled “Lamprey Eels” either indicates they’ve heard this line of thinking before, or that somehow news of Mr. E hasn’t made it down to Austin just yet. Obvious comparison’s aside, what’s undeniable across the short four song set is that each is a well crafted exercise — the vintage keys, dark ambiance, and distant guitars sound like they could be borrowed from a lost “Twin Peaks” soundtrack. But like most every element here, they work in support of clever melodies and song craft.

Maybe that seems like it should be the bare minimum for any recording: Good songs. Good arrangements. Good performances. But far too often, bands — even ones with some obvious talent — seem to be easily distracted by the premise of putting together a record. Loxsly has clearly avoided that pitfall with the here-then-it’s-gone Flashlights. Beyond that, we could come up with far worse strategies for up-and-coming bands than, “Give them four songs and leave them wanting more.” Guess it worked, because we do. — Paul Serilla

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