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BEST ALBUM OF THE PAST 12 MONTHS Minneapolis 2002 - Glamour

There are plenty of bands who have listened to just as many obscure British new-wave records as Valet singer Robin Kyle, but they lack his unforgettable melodic phrasing. You really can't teach or imitate these things, any more than you can explain why such dead-on-paper Valet choruses as "I hear Zurich's beautiful this time of year" become mental mantras for listeners after only a few plays. If anything, Valet's debut album The Glamour Is Contagious is a demonstration of pop's unconscious power. It works best if you put it on and don't quite listen to it, letting Kyle strum the acoustic guitar and run on about "cultivating blanker stares" as the bass-drums-keyboards tap away in a minimalist style. Eventually, the pattern takes hold. Kyle is an expat Irishman, and the sarcastically titled Glamour recalls the sound of European postpunk (the Auteurs, Miaow) after the anticipation of commercial success wore off. The mood may seem defeatist at first ("It would be nice to clean the kitchen," Kyle muses at one point, "but what would the mice eat?"). Still, there's a palpable anticipation of something larger and more personal in this album's shimmering beauty. And that's contagious, too.

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