WHAT IS IT with tools? Give your average suburban Joe Teen a copy of Big Star's Radio City, an ATM card, a working 4-track, English 101, and a wicked case of acne, and he'll write you a world history in sound. (The same phenomenon works a lot differently with suburban Jolenes, but that's another story). Home-studio shut-ins the Apples In Stereo may not have all the above, but they do have a white-pop world --from '60s high-pop to '90s alt-pop--dancing in their heads. They court the quintessential components of bookish boy rock (the Byrds, Beatles, Velvets, Big Star, Raspberries, and early-period R.E.M.), ingeniously replicating and redistributing them throughout the new album Tone Soul Evolution. And they've rarely been treated this swell.
Such a replication takes studiousness (something any shut-in can muster); but the Apples aren't just studious, they're smitten--with that same big, bad outer world your average indie-tool shut-in fears like the plague. "Look to the sky (ocean of design) and find a lucky star," the Apples' wisp of a singer Robert Schneider intones like a Connecticut-bred Alex Chilton, as his band turns this dream-world sentiment into an airy ocean of Byrds-becomes-Stooges guitar silk. And it follows with every song (literally every song) that the lyrics are as exultant as the melodies are pretty--and these melodies are pretty. "I'll be makin' a livin' just like a Tin Pan Alley musician," our Yalie Chilton croons (sans irony) over a born-again VU melody.
The cliché for Tin Pan Alley songcraft was "Say 'I love you' in 32 bars." For indie tools the trope might run, "Say whatever in four poorly played chords." On Tone Soul Evolution, the Apples In Stereo defy indie rock and say what they think while sounding how they feel. And this feels like the best indie-rock record of the year.
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