Friday, February 03, 2012

The Just Barelys: "Mad Bits" (album review)

Art pop is a difficult style to describe.  It becomes a bit of a catchall for anything quirky and quasi-experimental that you can't put another handle on.  That certainly describes Halifax's The Just Barelys.  The duo will release their new studio album, Mad Bits, on February 14th.

There are no shortage of adjectives that can be used to characterize Mad Bits.  Charming, quirky, bubbly, playful, catchy, short but sweet, out in left field; all of those can accurately describe the record.

What separates The Just Barelys from other 'art rock' bands, say tUnE-yArDs, is that they never becomes grating or pretentious.  They manage to do so without compromising any of the 'out there' aspects of their music.

The album opens with "Mountain Low", a song that combines a loose groove with a hurky jerky vocal delivery.  Call it Eric's Trip meets Stephen Malkmus.  Elsewhere the harmonies and vocal complement of Stephen Kelly and Eleanor King mix with an off-kilter arrangement to deliver something you'd get if Yo La Tengo were doing Beat Happening covers.

One of the more experimental moments comes on "Steel Cable".  Edgy abrupt electric guitar squeals stabs through what is otherwise a sweet pop ditty.  Later, "We Don't really Believe This (Yes We Do)", uses computerized blips and bloops to intro and provide percussion for a melodic duet.

The lyrics do their part to endear The Just Barelys as well.  One can't help but smirk while listening to "Meany", a tale about meaningless lyrics and songs that have nothing to say.

When all is said and done Mad Bits succeeds in accomplishing one of the rarest of feats: it makes arty music both fun and experimental.

Best tracks: "Meany", "Steel Cable"

Track listing for Mad Bits:
  • Mountain Low
  • Ok Yeah Ok
  • Meany
  • Worry Queue
  • Steel Cable
  • Not Fair Enough
  • Almost Exactly
  • Lions
  • The Ride
  • Sinister (When You're Not Around)
  • We Don't Really Believe This (Yes We Do)

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