January 26, 2004

Heavy Blinkers/Orwell "Intercontinental Pop Exchange, Volume 3"

Talk about an original idea! Canadian label Endearing, who are obviously endeared to excellent pop music, came up with a most original idea: a series of split EP's with bands from different countries, serving to highlight great young pop bands who might not be heard by fans of the other bands. It's all about gaining a new audience, and previous volumes have included bands such as Wolf Colonel, The Paperbacks, Paper Moon and the Leslies. This third installment of the Intercontinental Pop Exchange series offers up three selections by two really wonderful, underrated pop groups, Canadian baroque-poppers Heavy Blinkers and French popsters Orwell.

Halifax's Heavy Blinkers are a classic pop band who take their influences not only from classic 60s pop geniuses as Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach, butals late 70s/early 80s Adult Contemporary. We're talking pop made between 1977 and 1982, and, to be even more specific, I'm hearing a heavy dose of Michael McDonald and Christopher Cross. Not to fear, though; The Heavy Blinkers have actual songwriting talent, so their songs are never less than excellent. "Maplewood" is the real winner here; it should have been a hit in 1981, yet it sounds like it should be a radio hit now. The other two songs plunder Brian Wilson's "Cabinessence," and while the sound is somewhat old hat, these Canadians are talented enough to pull it off without sounding terribly cliche.

Though Orwell hail from France, they most definitely share the same musical influences and inspirations as the Heavy Blinkers. "Everywhere" is an alternate version of a song from their forthcoming album, though it sounds perfectly fine in this state. Instrumental "Attic's Ballad" is more of an electronica affair, and it sounds like a long-lost outtake from Air's Virgin Suicides soundtrack. "Monorail," sung in French, is a new version of one of their older songs, and it also sounds quite nice.

This is a fun little series, and Volume Three is certainly worth picking up. Not only does this record serve both bands extremely well, it also stands quite nicely on its own, and I'm sorry, but "Maplewood" is one of those classic pop songs that will make you neglect the other five tracks on the record. Fun!

--Joseph Kyle

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