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Xela, "Tangled Wool"

This is a great pop record that doesn't want to be a pop record.

City Centre Offices
Xela has crafted what is for me, the year's first magnificent pop album. "Softness of Senses" opens the record with an absolutely sublime strumming guitar riff that leads into some simple guitar melodies, whisps of synth and deep bass notes. It's a perfect start to an album that has quickly become one of my favorites in recent memory. Well, it's almost perfect. By the time I was halfway through the beautifully melancholy "You Are In The Stars" I started to wonder what was missing. It's an absolutely intoxicating record of superb melodies, textbook pop song structures, and just the right amount of tweaked back-end to throw the whole mix into another world, but by the time I got to track five, "Through Crimson Clouds," the experience was feeling incomplete. It was like one of the channels of the stereo mix was just missing: a huge gaping whole in the middle of one of the best pop records I've heard in a long, long time. And then it hit me. In John Xela's quest to make the perfect pop record (dedicated to Monika), he forgot to get anyone to sing on it! To be fair, there's a repeating phrase drenched in reverb on "Drawing Pictures of Girls," but that's not enough to do the rest of these arrangements justice. These songs are so tight, I can hear the words that should be there in my head every time I give it a spin, but try as I might, I can't find the vocals because there aren't any. I'm not one who's stuck on vocal-driven music; most of what I listen to is instrumental in fact. But with a record of this depth—the kind of record 4AD used to put out when anyone gave a damn, the kind of record that gets jaded ex-pop music fans to put down the laptop glitch and listen to something that belongs on a mixtape of love songs—there's just got to be someone singing on it. These songs demand a voice, and not just the tonally-challenged voice I add when I'm listening in the car. John Xela, if you are reading this, go find yourself a singer. Toni Haliday isn't doing much these days, is she? Surely there's some way to reconcile this because a finer pop record isn't bound to come around this year, but this one isn't finished.

samples:

 

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