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splendid > reviews > 7/10/2004
The Helio Sequence
The Helio Sequence
Love and Distance
Sub Pop


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Everyone Knows Everyone"

Buy me now
If you ask me, the most exciting thing happening in American music is the effortless, brilliantly subversive pop created by bands like Dufus, Xiu Xiu and Animal Collective. The Helio Sequence aren't as well-known as those bands, but they're just as essential in developing this new "golden age" of pop. With the harmonica-toting, electronica-sporting, groove-riddled Love and Distance, Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel have created their own slice of utopia, rife with details, yet as wonderfully weightless as a passing cloud. Their music is interesting, intelligent and exciting, and it'll make you smile really, really big.

Opener "Harmonica Song" does a brilliant job of setting the tone. It starts out with a tight, bouncy electronica beat, which is then expanded upon by a real drum kit. On top of this, the duo spreads a wonderfully thick layer of gorgeous, exultant harmonica, which is eventually swapped for Brandon Summers' lovable vocals. Summers has the sort of rock and roll persona that seemed to die out in the seventies -- gleeful at his own coolness, and yet somehow quite humble, like a little kid who's happy just to have your ear. Meanwhile, the electronics bubble up like pure happiness boiled in a small pot, creating fascinating rhythms against the dependable backdrop of Weikel's muscular drumming. A New Pornographers comparison is warranted here -- both bands absolutely demand listeners' attention. The Helio Sequence is more interesting, though; rather than getting by on sheer bluster, their meticulous compositions sound as effortless as a good dance or a warm drink on a cold day.

Everything these crazy kids touch finds new life in their exuberant hands. The much-abused phrase "Rain rain go away" seems cute all over again in the playful mock-melancholy "The People Know the Secret". "Everyone Knows Everyone", a lament about small town life and big dreams, seems like a profound revelation despite the clichéd lyrics. The compelling mixture of harmonica, guitar, drums and electric sounds gets more thrilling the deeper you delve into the band's delightful sound.

If bands like The Helio Sequence continue to produce such addictive, cheerful, groovy work, it's eventually going to trickle down to mainstream radio and make the airwaves a whole lot more interesting. But why wait for the suits to catch on? You can get in on the ground floor with Love and Distance.



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