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The Ladybug Transistor - Can't Wait Another Day

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Artist: The Ladybug Transistor

Album: Can't Wait Another Day

Label: Merge

Review date: Jun. 11, 2007

The Ladybug Transistor has been through some changes since the release of their self-titled 2003 album, although you’d probably never know without consulting the liner notes of Can’t Wait Another Day. Essex Green keyboardist/vocalist Sasha Bell has left the group (alas) and been replaced by Kyle Forester of Great Lakes. Bell’s EG bandmate Jeff Baron, meanwhile, is a minimal presence on the new album, with Ben Crum (also of Great Lakes) standing in. While Bell’s contributions will be missed, and Crum’s are most welcome, the line-up substitutions have a minimal effect on the group’s sound: frontman Gary Olson is the chief creative force behind the group, and despite the fact that he shares songwriting credits with the other members, Can’t Wait Another Day is clearly his show. Even the album’s many special guests (Jens Lekman, Alasdair Maclean of The Clientele, and Kevin Barker, to name but a few) are all but invisible, consenting to become mere instruments in maestro Olson’s orchestra.

Of course, there’s a reason that Olson attracts such illustrious collaborators: he’s a highly-talented songwriter and arranger responsible for some of the best-sounding pop albums in recent memory. Over time, Olson has differentiated himself from other retro-inclined acts, veering away from baroque psychedelia in favor of a slick sound more indebted to ’60s and ’70s soul, AM radio, and Brill Building pop. Can’t Wait Another Day continues this trend, and is more or less of a piece with 2003’s The Ladybug Transistor, although a bit heavier on strings and horns. Olson’s songs are as strong as ever, the dense and polished arrangements brim with wonderful little touches (see the sax solo and Crum’s double guitar leads on opener “Always on the Telephone”). Highlights include the new wave-tinged “This Old Chase,” the bucolic “Terry,” and soulful closer “Lord, Don’t Pass Me By.” Olson throws in a couple of rather obscure covers for good measure: “Here Comes the Rain,” originally performed by Trader Horne (a 1970 one-off project from Them organist Jackie McAuley and onetime Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble) and Samara Lubelski’s “Broken Links.”

If Can’t Wait Another Day has a flaw, it’s that it’s a little too polished and predictable. Despite the four-year hiatus between albums and personnel changes, Olson isn’t really trying anything new here. His songs, despite their high quality, risk getting a little too similar and repetitive. Of course if you’re going to be repetitive, its an asset to be good at what you do: Can’t Wait Another Day is a lovely, masterfully-executed work, and that’s precisely what we’ve come to expect from Gary Olson and The Ladybug Transistor.

By Michael Cramer

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