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Aberdeen’s heartfelt pop never cloys

Matthew Solarski | Thursday, April 7, 2005

Few worthwhile romances begin in whirlwind, Romeo-and-Juliet fashion. Usually, a chance encounter will foster a subtle liking, which over time may evolve into a mutual affinity, which in those few rare and wonderful cases, blossoms into full-fledged amore. When love works, it is because the beloved in question gradually grow upon one another where other suitors have dazzled for a brief time and swiftly fizzled. The songs on Aberdeen’s new single operate in very much the same manner as the love that works.Whereas most pop has the tendency to grate, achieving optimal potency around the fourth or fifth listen and careening downhill forever thereafter, Aberdeen’s brand of pop makes a dramatically different ascent. The three songs on “Florida” may strike the listener as unexceptional at first – and this is good, as successive listens will reveal the songs’ nuances and endearing qualities that the casual pop aficionado may have missed.”Florida” opens with the title track, a sophisticated number featuring the vocals of John (Aberdeen’s press materials expressly omit surnames), that culminates with an exalted “don’t fall in love / don’t ever break my heart.” The second song, “Late Bloomer,” finds John paired with primary Aberdeen vocalist Beth. The third and perhaps finest track draws lyrical inspiration from Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” and features Beth on vocals once again. She asks, “Did it snow the day she left? / Cherry blossoms caught the blood that fell.” Lyrics like these haunt the listener long after the music has faded into oblivion, retaining the same understated pull as that lover who becomes something more.Longtime Aberdeen fans may be dismayed somewhat by the relative lack of jangle on this release, as the combo sound increasingly like brother band Trembling Blue Stars here, but the wistfully romantic essence of Aberdeen remains quite intact.B-sides, guests redeem Esthero’s tardy tiradeCanadian chanteuse Esthero has an odd history of tardiness. Her debut, 1999’s hypnotic “Breath From Another”, arrived with a whisper several years after trip-hop had faded from the mainstream music consciousness. While an uneven effort overall, “Breath” boasted a handful of exceptional tracks, including the brass-tinged “That Girl” and the neo-murder ballad “Heaven Sent.” The latter saw an iota of MTV airplay thanks in large part to its haunting video inspired by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s avant-garde milestone “Un Chien Andalou.”Fast-forward to late 2004, and Esthero has resurfaced at long last to deliver, of all things, a hackneyed diatribe against the sorry state of the music industry. On “We R in Need of a Musical Revolution” the lady prattles, “I’m so sick and tired of the [bad music] on the radio / MTV they only play the same thing / no matter where I go I see Ashanti in the video / I want something more.” Her plea is indeed valid, but such quality-mongering reached its peak during the same late 1990s that nearly swallowed Esthero for good. And besides, the state of music production has never been better. Our chanteuse should curb her frustration and invest in an iPod.Graciously, the other five songs on this comeback EP strike a more consonant chord. Esthero puts herself in good company, collaborating with Sean Lennon on the bouncy piano-centered romp “Every Day Is A Holiday (With You),” and with the mighty Cee-Lo Green on the R&B-flavored “Gone.” The true payoff, however, comes in the form of “Amber and Tiger’s Eye,” the EP’s closing track, and a mesmerizing, string-laden midnight drifter. Esthero’s voice, a rich and sultry high alto, manages to transcend anything it says, and the top-notch production rounds out an overall pleasurable package.