January 22, 2003

Melodie Group "Updownaround"

Roy Thirlwall has one of the most aloof singing voices I've ever heard. His singing fits the music, though; if you're singing songs of melancholy, it probably wouldn't hurt to actually have a convincing voice. Unlike, say, Calvin Johnson's bad-but-cute style, or Stephin Merritt's "I'm smart and I know it and my words are more important anyway" attitude, Thirlwall's got a "I'm smart and sassy, dig it, I'm DETATCHED" thing going on here.

As for Updownaround, it's not bad, either. I'll admit that it took me a listen or two to really get used to his singing, but after that inital thaw, I totally fell for updownaround. And though his voice may be similar throughout, the music itself is actually quite varied. With his guitar and beatbox and whatever else he may have around him at the time, Thirlwall produces a full, lush sound. Once you warm up to his voice, then you'll find the prize of warm, glowing pop music.

For the most part, the music on Updownaround is downbeat, kind of dour, a little bit melancholy, and possessing a wit as dry as the martini you drank last night. Sure, at times he sounds a lot like Bob Wratten or Keris from Harper Lee, but that's not a bad thing! When he gets a little bit funky and a tad experimental is when he's at his best; "Xiao" is my favorite; it starts off slow, but then builds into an odd electronic casiotone passage, and then returns to the original sound. Just a nice little surprise in the middle for you! Other great moments on Updownaround include the positive by way of being a double negative lovesong "I Do Not Not Love You," the Morrissey-ish "Butterfly:Tart," and the upbeat tearjerker "Hold."

An interesting, intelligent diversion of pop is what Updownaround ultimatly is, even if it's not totally memorable. At times, I feel like maybe Melodie Group is unfairly restrained by being a one-man project. These songs are all great, but a band might be able to add a greater depth to them. Other than that, no real complaints, and Updownaround is a fine debut album from a proven talent.

--Joseph Kyle

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