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  In the Clear  


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Ivy are a fun little band whose work I have enjoyed for several years now. This is actually their fifth full-length album, and in writing this review I learned something new about the band. Specifically, band member Adam Schlesinger is also a founding member of Fountains of Wayne. I have never listened to FoW, but I know lots of people who enjoy them -- there has even been a review here on the Sponge! Who knew?

Anyway, trivia aside, this is a really fun album. Ivy are an accomplished band making lush, 1980s style pop music. When imagining their sound, think about bands like Aztec Camera, The Blow Monkeys, The Blue Nile, and Prefab Sprout. That sort of sound: lush, rich, happy, and light. The sounds are light drumming, guitar, bass, keyboards, strings, and voice. The voice is a real focus of the music, in that singer Dominique Durand is what you are supposed to paying attention to. She has a pretty voice, and she is French, so she has a charming European accent. One thing to note is that the production on this record is exquisite. Schlesinger and band mate Andy Chase did a wonderful job of balancing the instruments in such a way as to accompany Durand, while still allowing her to shine.

Overall, Ivy's music is not dense, nor is it particularly deep. However, it is great music for listening, and I have found much to enjoy on this disc. The songs are hummable, and sometimes you need that. There are 10 songs here, and 5 of them I think stand out as exquisite pop tunes. That's a pretty good ratio for any album.

In the Clear opens with a tinkling piano bit in the song Nothing But The Sky. The piano is joined by drums and bass defining a nice rhythm, and Durand's voice, lighter than air, floating above the other melodies.

Keep Moving has a very 80s synthpop feel to it, with a nice throbbing bass line, a wash of synths, and a heavily phase-shifted guitar. Durand sings well here, and in general this song is infernally catchy. (Once stuck in your head, you will be humming it for days.) Towards the end of the song, Ivy layer in some horns, and at that moment more than any other on this album, they invoke the spirit of The Blue Nile. Wonderful stuff.

There is a real head-bopping beat to Tess Don't Tell. I like that on this tune the guitar features a mild distortion for a change, and that combined with the happy little keyboard bit looping about in the background make this song positively fun. Four in the Morning, on the other hand, features a slinky bass riff driven rhythm that drives the tune along. To this Ivy add some piano, to nice effect.

The final pop masterpiece on this album, for me at least, is the glorious Ocean City Girl. This is a sunshiny, happy song, all bright melodies, echoed voice, and tinkling piano. Truly lovely.

This is a great pop record, and I am sure that the many Ivy fans out there will enjoy this tremendously. If you like pleasant music, then this is an excellent purchase.

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