July 20, 2003

Sister Sonny "The Bandit Lab'

For the past few years, Norway's been producing some really interesting acoustic/electronica hybrids. Bands like Kings of Convenience, Poor Rich Ones and Sondre Lerche have been redefining the sound of melancholy music, and have been receiving well-deserved praise for it. Sister Sonny first hit these shores with 1999's beautiful Lovesongs. For the past few years, though, Sister Sonny have been rather quiet, focusing their objective in their native Europe. The Bandit Lab is their fourth album, and their newest American release in three years.

On the front cover is a little tagline that states "a 2-record set on 1 compact disc," and this should be seen as a bit of a warning. The Bandit Lab is a most ambitious little record, filled to the rim with seventeen songs that run the gauntlet of musical styles. You like atmospheric landscapes tempered with haunting, sad vocals? They're in there. ("Rumba Parumba," "Schaflen zie?") You like danceable pop with a bit of darkness to it? Yep, it's in there! ("Stupid And The Silver Fox," "Burning Teddy," "Educating Jimmy") You like Britpop? Yep, it's in there. ("Bugs Dreams #2,""Watching a House Burn Down") You like things that are just weird? Yup, there's a little bit of that, too. ("Neon Party")

What makes it all better, though, is that every one of the album's seventeen songs are excellent; there are no clunkers on The Bandit Lab. As much as that that is a commendable feat for any band, it must be stated that the sheer volume of music on The Bandit Lab is its greatest flaw. Too many pop wonders, you say, isn't a bad thing? Well, that may be the case, but because everything is excellently wonderful, it is sadly rather easy for the really great songs--which come toward the end of the album--to be overlooked. Indeed, the length of the album--you could make an even stronger record if you were play around with the length. With no bum tracks, any way you combine these songs would make for a killer record.

The Bandit Lab might be a bit much to take in during one sitting, but it's certainly not an unpleasant listen. It's never too moody, never too serious, never too lighthearted, and never too bland. I might suggest, too, that you could put this on random or in a disc changer and hit random, and you'd never be disappointed. It's just right; it's a great record on its own merits, and everything about The Bandit Lab is excellent. A rare feat these days, my friend...a rare feat, indeed.

--Joseph Kyle

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