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Leels - Fingeescrossed

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Artist: Leels

Album: Fingeescrossed

Label: Cloth Monkey

Review date: Jun. 3, 2006

Loosely strung, offhandedly executed, and laid-back, the third-full length from Leels sounds like a relic from the late-’80s lo-fi revolution – fuzzy, hazy and I-just-thought-of-this-song unfiltered as a Sentridoh cassette. Warm and accessible on deck, smuggling open-ended experiment in the hold, Fingeescrossed only feels like music for lazy afternoons. It's actually a little more complicated.

The band includes members from nearly every interesting band ever to emerge from Florida – Eric Morrison from Home, Chris Sturgeon and Trey Conner from Meringue and Jeremy King from Dumbwaiters – all kicking back from their main gigs to make songs that are skewed, fragmentary, eccentrically structured, woozily paced, and recognizably pop. None of the songs follow a strict verse/chorus pattern, and nearly every cut breaks down at some point, its tuneful discipline temporarily abandoned as band members wheel off in all directions. Even so, you get the sense that Leels would like people to be able to sing along. It would make them happy. They're offering you cookies, bite-sized, sweet – familiar.

What's disturbing is how these cookies mutate in the mouth, into the Eric Gaffney-ish slantedness of "Dream Job" with its jolting dead stop, into the not quite-on piano riff and (surely ironic) flute flourishes of "Finding the Road There," into the Grateful Dead-esque handclapped chorus at the end of "Watership is Down." You can sing along, but only if you're willing to mouth words about "interlocking directorates" and "ancient fairies" and forget, entirely, that pop songs are mostly about loving and losing.

So, what you're left with is an album that seeks but skirts comfort. The low-key charm lulls you into complacency. The hidden difficulties pinprick you to attention. There's too much there for pure coasting, and not enough for head-phones-locked full attention. The album could be easier, or it could be more interesting…but it has a hard time being both.

By Jennifer Kelly

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