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CD Shorts: The Callas

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Callas

Am I Vertical?

(Inner Ear)

From the first strains of The Callas’ Am I Vertical?, there’s an air of confident, weird cool. This is a band that seems to be saying, “We wear better shoes than you, and we always will.” Brothers Lakis and Aris Ionas, accomplished artists who’ve exhibited their work in several countries, tout the band as “the tip of an artistic factory.” The music, however, doesn’t sound like the work of moonlighting artists.

The beats are brash, and the textures are a melange of basic but effective bass and fuzzed guitar, sometimes accented by hard-to-identify noisemaking. It induces a euphoric near-hypnosis, and draws sounds from spaghetti Westerns, Velvet Underground soundscaping, and—perhaps unavoidably, given that the Ionas brothers are Greek—from European hipster pop. The lyrics and pronunciation spin English into some unusual combos of sound and word, which merely adds to the band’s instant appeal. What would be cutesy in the wrong hands becomes trendsetting in theirs.

In some respects, the stolid grooves and near-spoken vocals could be labelled as merely retro in a punk direction, but they transcend that kind of easy label, perhaps by sheer posing and bombast. If you need to feel like your party is an international affair of impossible cool, this album ought to top the playlist. Whatever it is that sends this band into its own weird Twilight Zone, it manages to get there and stay there with very few missteps for the duration of the album. There’s no clear standout, but rather a set of tunes that add up to a coherent whole.

Oh, and that title? A reworking of Sylvia Plath’s poem title “I Am Vertical.”•

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