Nedelle; The Moore Brothers 

Republic of Two; On and Out

Music asceticism always has its stalwarts, careful classicists whose artistic intent is reinvention and perfection of old forms. The East Bay's Nedelle and Moore Brothers approach this hallowed simplicity from different directions, with some successful results.

Thom and Greg Moore's second full-length is a neat and easy exploration of the Louvin and Everly Brothers' gorgeous close harmonies, spangled with bits of psychedelia and dub and glazed in a Beatles/Pretty Things feel. A few tracks dip a toe into the Great Cheese Sea, but that's hard to avoid in the traditional two-white-brothers-and-an-acoustic-guitar format. Songs like "Sad and Joy" and "Tiny Bongs" are spun sugar with nothing but the most minimal percussion and acoustic guitar to serve up the harmony. The brothers seem to exist in a state of pure joy, even when singing about being abandoned by a lover ("Have You Seen Sorrow?") or otherwise unhealthy relationships ("The Puppet"). The only missteps are the rocked-out "Salton Sea" and the synth-stippled "Emotional Rollercoaster." Since the basic human element on the disc is so rich, excess frippery just seems to cheapen it.

Treading a darker and somewhat disturbing path is Nedelle. The easiest comparison to make about the music of this singer/songwriter is that of the early jazz-pop of Everything But the Girl, but Nedelle has thick streams of girl groups and gospel running in her veins, evoking a mellower Laura Nyro. She wrote and produced the record herself, and also played guitar, violin, and keys. Her voice is strong and smooth, but the songs are all puzzlingly lovesick, dick-whipped, or somewhere between the two. Still, when the great tracks come swinging by -- the nihilistic "Too Late" and the lo-fi R&B of the title track -- you could just as easily fall in love right alongside her. "Republic of Two" is particularly arresting, sounding like the Jackson 5 as produced by Stephin Merritt, or Sade remixed by the Flaming Lips on a $100 budget.

In the end, the simplicity of Nedelle's album goes down a little more easily than the Moore Brothers disc. Perhaps that's because it's easier to swallow some old-fashioned, slightly too-socialized self-portraits of a woman wronged and wronging than it is hear the Moores' sun-spotted sounds. You can close your eyes and hold tight to a simple ideal, but when you open them, the world will still be a dark and complicated place.


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