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The Blow - Paper Television

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Artist: The Blow

Album: Paper Television

Label: K

Review date: Nov. 23, 2006

The airwaves today are dominated by mainstream pop divas with unexceptional voices and sound-a-like songs. The hooks are there, as are the requisite tales of love and loss, but most of the songs lack the personality and spunk that marks the difference between music you can dance or to, and music that sweeps you up in spite of yourself. The Blow's 2004 concept-based EP Poor Aim: Love Songs, a collaboration between Khaela Marichich, who previously released two records under the name, and Jona Bechtolt (YACHT), delivered a fun, catchy and yet smart collection of indie-flavored electro-pop. Though not particularly danceable, the eclectic mix managed not only to highlight all that was wrong in the world of mainstream pop, but also to illustrate a few pointers on how to make it right again. Seek it out.

On Paper Television, Marichich and Bechtolt once again attempt to build a better breed of pop music. The album improves upon the electro-pop foundations of Poor Aim, delivering a delightful mix of quirky vocals and catchy electronic beats. Khaela Marichich's vocals are charming in the way of earnest, guileless karaoke – tuneful and deeply felt, but light and amateurish in texture. Her girlish voice conjures the image of teen or twentysomething girls singing in front of the bathroom mirror after the first big date in months, nicely complementing the idiosyncratic narratives and metaphors featured in her songs.

Marichich writes the lyrics and charts out the musical ideas, then turns the unfinished tracks over to Bechtolt, who crafts the accompaniment and production. This system of songwriting makes for a powerful synergy between the vocals and electronics, allowing the talents of both artists to shine, though Bechtolt's star is almost certainly brighter. Bechtolt's beats bounce, skitter, swoop and throb in almost all the right places, forming a backdrop to the vocals that, through all the pop hooks and electro sound effects, never loses its sense of fun or overruns Marichich's voice. His spot-on arrangements shore up some of Marichich's weaker moments ("Babay (Eat a Critter, Feel It's Wrath)" and "Pardon Me"), turning what would otherwise have been forgettable little ditties into songs that bear repeated listening. When Bechtolt is given high quality material to begin with ("Fists Up," "Parentheses," "The Long List of Girls," "True Affection"), the result is absolutely addictive. "The Long List of Girls" alone would be able to salvage the most wretched of dance parties in three minutes flat.

Word on the street has it that Paper Television will be the last collaboration between Marichich and Bechtolt. If true, it’s a pity for anyone who likes pop music with plenty of cheek, a hint of innocence and an irresistible beat.

By Malini Sridharan

Other Reviews of The Blow

The Concussive Caress

Poor Aim: Love Songs

Read More

View all articles by Malini Sridharan

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