Friday, January 27, 2012

THE BLUEFLOWERS - "In Line with the Broken-Hearted"

Like British pop star V.V. Brown, Detroit's Blueflowers have a manifest affinity for infusing the tried-and-true chord progressions of late-'50s/early-'60s pop music with thoroughly modern soul, energy and purpose. But while Brown's style scales a Spector-esque wall of sound, the Blueflowers quietly opt for the picket fence.

With songs like "In Your Shadow" and "Hesitate", the band's sophomore album, In Line with the Broken-Hearted (2011), demonstrates an innate pop sensibility more closely aligned with The Crystals or Vogue-era Francoise Hardy than the precious navel-gazing of latter-day college radio. Just as a campfire draws faces from the surrounding darkness, so vocalist Kate Hinote provides a focal point for her band-mates, whose able instrumentation is relegated to a supporting role. And for good reason, for although Hinote’s vocals on occasion seem redundant, the woman can really sing.

Which is not to sell Tony Hamera (guitars), Erica Stephens (bass), David Johnson (acoustic guitar) and Jim Faulkner (drums) short. To be sure, their musical sense is impeccable, judiciously doling out organ signatures or clicking castanets at precisely the right moments, and to great effect.

Indeed, it all really falls into place for the album’s brightest moment, “Maybe”, a sugary tune at least as sweet as anything Phil Spector ever produced at the height of his game. The possibly sinister undertones of the lyrics render the tune that much more interesting: “Sorrow won’t protect you now / You’ve said just how you feel / If I can’t have the best of you / Then no one ever will.” Make no mistake: in a merit-based music industry there’d be no question of “Maybe” – this song would be multi-platinum.

With its clean (though not overdone) production, In Line with the Broken-Hearted shirks Detroit’s gritty urban landscape, casting the post-Aretha/Iggy/White Stripes city in a whole new musical light – one that finds melody on a prairie breeze somewhere on the darkest outskirts of town.

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