Offbeat, eclectic music

By Julian Wise - October 5, 2006

Russel Hodson, 20

On The Crickets' debut disc "Song Bring Me Back," brother-and-sister duo Tim and Emily Laursen craft an intriguing collection of 14 alternative rock songs. A dozen additional musicians contribute on the disc, giving it an offbeat, eclectic tone that matches the whimsical and introspective theme of the tracks.

A 14x12 grid on the inside of the liner notes matches artists to songs, giving visual confirmation that the disc is a broad based collaborative effort. Unbusted guitarist/vocalist Joe Keefe plays bass, guitar, and drums on the disc, while solo artist Willy Mason adds vocals to the track "Shang Hai." The core of the disc is the dry vocal interplay between Mr. Laursen and his sister. On the opening track "One Star Army" Mr. Laursen intones, "I'm 26 years old, passing through this world." The disc's low-fi sound and ironic vocal tone suggests that the Laursens have studied the playbook of 90s alternative guitar rock as epitomized by artists like Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Nirvana, and The Lemonheads. Certain moments on the disc recall The Rentals' "Seven More Minutes," one of the finest unsung gems of the 90s.

On "Growing Babies," the band introduces its penchant for dissonance, electronic backdrops, and strange time signatures. The track "Shang Hai" offers beeping electronic keyboards that sound like outtakes from an old Atari video game as guest vocalist Willy Mason trades lines with Ms. Laursen. The band's disparate elements coalesce for a transcendental rock moment on "Orange," a gorgeous instrumental track. "Bullies" harkens back to high school drubbings as Mr. Laursen sings, "bullies are beautiful." Mr. Laursen and his sister hit a vocal high on "Hannah K.," (we suspect inspired by guitarist Keefe's artistic older sister) as their vocals fuse seamlessly through lines like "she's a cynic with a cigarette." The disc's closing moment is the brief song "Some Connection," an acoustic plea for bridging the gaps of isolation that separate people from each other.

Perhaps the strongest element to emerge from the disc is Ms. Laursen's vocal work; under the skilled recording techniques of her brother, her voice conjures echoes of alt-rock luminaries such as Julianna Hatfield and Claudia Gonson of the Magnetic Fields. Ms. Laursen could sing the phone book and it would still sound dynamic, and fortunately she has far more interesting material to work with here.

Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.