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The Orchid Pool
The Orchid Pool

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Here's another reason why you should never ignore self-released material. Mayfly, from husband and wife team Tony and Kimberly Paglia, manages to trump just about everything the much-invoked Elephant 6 collective has released this year. Mayfly is melodic. Mayfly is whimsical. And Mayfly manages to avoid being a billboard for the Paglias' most self-indulgent impulses -- no small feat for an album that features kazoos among its list of instruments.

These are good-natured, upbeat songs, balanced on the wall between pop and folk. It's the extra details that catch you unaware, like the unexpected horns that add a jaunty swagger to "Geetar-Boy". You'll find more horn action on "Dust Bunnies", though the real treasure there is the two-part harmony on the chorus. When the Paglias sing "Don't you wish you'd thought of it first," you'll wish you had.

"Holiday" mixes more winning horn melodies with an airy melody reminiscent of the Legendary Jim Ruiz Group, while "Amelia, A Question" invokes Of Montreal with a snazzy "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head"-ish tempo, handbell choir accompaniment and plenty of burbling horns and wind instruments.

Think you've heard it all? Not 'til you've checked out the swirling ambience of "We Don't Talk", a shiny, delicate track that seems a little out of place amidst Mayfly's straightforward guitar strumming and Kinks-inspired filigree. You'll also enjoy the solemn, piano-tinged confessional tone of Ladybug, which hides a myriad of stylistic shout-outs beneath its surface.

The most obvious strike against Mayfly is that there's not much here that hasn't been done before. People who've had more than their fill of the so-called Athens sound will be all too willing to write this disc off as more of the same. And yes, like those works, Mayfly is an eccentric, home-recorded throwback; it's when you listen closely, and witness the creative energy and loving care applied to its creation, that you'll realize that this album is something special.

You'll get a clue from the packaging. Mayfly comes hand-wrapped and twine-bound in stamped brown paper. What's more, the booklet isn't printed; the tiny pieces of art are hand-mounted with old-fashioned photo-album corner-pockets. Most of the art itself is apparently the work of Tony Paglia's great-grandmother, and it's quite lovely. If this sounds to you like a terribly expensive and impractical packaging strategy, you're probably right. Perhaps that's why there are only a few hundred copies of Mayfly out there.

Once people discover the Paglias' work, those few hundred copies will disappear very quickly.

-- George Zahora
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