Power-Pop Experts Invent New Scales, Revisit Old Thrills

Most record labels initially justify their existence by exposing the world to music that wouldn't find distribution without them. With his newborn Simian imprint, actor Elijah Wood instead chooses to release the new album by Apples in Stereo, an already-beloved psych-pop entity made semi-famous by its Elephant 6 affiliations. It's cool: The band needed a label and Wood needed a band. And what better way to kick off a new business venture than with head Apple Robert Schneider, who seems unable to write a song that doesn't cling to the brain? New Magnetic Wonder opener "Can You Feel It?" is the best sonic interpretation of summer vacation since the band rushed through "Tidal Wave" in '95. But since then, the Apples have branched out from their '60s fixation: Here, the piano- and organ-driven "Same Old Drag" glitters like '70s AM gold, while abundant vocoder use throughout signals some serious E.L.O. adoration. Ultimately, though, nothing can be totally boiled down to a single time-stamped influence—the Apples layer Mellotron on top of handclaps on top of orchestras. And as if recording a solid, complicatedly simple album weren't enough, Schneider uses its release to introduce his "Non-Pythagorean Music Scale," whose strange tonal clusters provide the perfect cohesion for an album that's both familiar and surprising.

The Apples in Stereo play Bowery Ballroom February 15, boweryballroom.com

 
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