The Aislers Set 

How I Learned to Write Backwards

The Aislers Set is, in a sense, the Bay Area's counterpart to UK twee-popsters Belle and Sebastian, making sounds that are curiously, deliriously, and joyously out of time. Its roots are in 1960s music that one would think them too young to know firsthand: Motown's Marvelettes and the Supremes, the Velvet Underground, the Beach Boys, and girl groups such as the Shangri-Las, as well as '70s proto-punk icons the Ramones and the Television Personalities.

Singer and main songwriter Amy Linton (formerly of Henry's Dress) was lucky enough to have a mom with a cool collection of 45s and she kept her ears open to '80s indie rock (the Smiths, Heavenly). This historical perspective gives Linton a rich palette from which to draw small but detailed portraits of dreamy, captivatingly melancholic pop. "Languor in the Balcony" juxtaposes winsome, forlorn vocals with pounding near-thrash; the eerily stark, pleading "Emotional Levy" recalls the otherworldly oldie "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" by the Jaynettes (if you're unfamiliar, call an oldies station, request it, and be amazed).

But don't get the idea that the Set is another unimaginative retro act: "Melody Not Malaise" alternates an unusual, slightly dissonant horn refrain, distant percussion, and spooky Ventures/Shadows guitar with its hand-clappin', engagingly Motown-echoing tune. Unlike many of its like-minded contemporaries, the Aislers Set remembers to rock, and while it maintains a lovably unpolished, Phil Spector-in-a-Brisbane-garage ambiance throughout, it also avoids the heavy-handed indie tendency of studied amateurishness (i.e., intentionally sounding off-key, out-of tune, super-nerdy, etc.). How I Learned to Write Backwards is haunting, echo-laden rough-pop, perfect for the lo-fi lot and those curious '60s nostalgics.

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