TOWERING SOUND Marie Stella.
I’ve always loved Sydney Bourke’s contribution to Satellite Lot’s Second Summer album, and it’s great to see a band built around her excellent lead vocals with the indie-pop Marie Stella. She’s got ample parts baby-doll innocence and skater-grrrl attitude, but most important is her pure tone, almost never dipping into a rasp or whisper, nor really needing to belt it out. She just sings and everything is right with the world.
On Marie Stella’s debut EP, Trust, that pure tone is constantly in contrast with jangly guitars, feedback, crashing cymbals, and generally lo-fi production values provided by Ron Harrity’s engineering work. The result is an easy-to-love six songs that are equal parts sing-along and jump-up-and-down, and not quite as loud as the band can get live.
Fitting then, that the first lyrics out of Bourke’s mouth on the opening “Message from Limbo” are “I want something easy/To consume.” For indie-flavored stuff you likely wouldn’t hear on commercial radio, these songs are remarkably easy to consume. The squealing distortion that opens the song is downright charming, and the three-note rhythm Bourke carves out with her bass is solid foundation for Bryan Bruchman’s and Matthew Erickson’s swirling guitars, like twin towers slowly falling down. When Bourke reaches up for the second go-round of the chorus — “You have to trust me/I’ve been terribly unlucky” — she’ll likely have you in the palm of her hand.
Seriously. The verse for the closing “Taken,” where then-drummer Derek Gierhan (Haru Bangs — Max Heinz is in Marie Stella now) holds things together nicely through peaks and valleys of activity, runs “no more shenanigans” over and over again and it manages not to sound silly at all.
But it gets better. As in “Lonely Is Better,” where Bourke is backed by Katherine Hulit, who chimes in between phrases in the verse, and the combination is very much early-run Throwing Muses. And just when you thought they couldn’t get any poppier, in comes “Blue Blood,” which has a verse straight out of early Belle and Sebastian, with a shaking tambourine for accent and the bass thriving on each chord’s root note. “I don’t need a lover to bring me down,” Bourke declares. “Now that I’m stronger, I deserve more.” Great finish, too, with what I hope is an Alphaville reference: “I thought there were rewards for staying forever young.”
If one of the rewards is getting to hear more from this very promising band, that’d be okay by me.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TRUST | Released by Marie Stella | with Dead Man’s Clothes + Art of Shooting | at Bayside Bowl, in Portland | June 12 | mariestella.bandcamp.com | myspace.com/mariestellamusic