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Blonde Redhead

23 (4AD)

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Blonde Redhead started out as a de facto Sonic Youth tribute act, openly channeling the post-punk legends' raw guitar noise and stop-start rhythmic attack. Yet over a decade-plus of increasingly sophisticated record-making, the New York trio has evolved into something far more unique: On 23, its seventh full-length, the band comes off like the world's artiest R&B act, playing melancholy make-out music for European stoners: This is what it sounds like when models cry.

With dual vocals from singer-guitarists Kazu Makino and Amedeo Pace, the songs here are plenty melodic, but they're all built around groove, first and foremost; if a beat doesn't suggest the rhythm of sex, drummer Simone Pace (Amedeo's twin brother) isn't interested. As a result, 23 drifts off into space-station atmosphere a little more than 2004's excellent Misery Is a Butterfly, which featured more memorable tunes. Still, for a group that first made a name for itself with a borrowed aesthetic, Blonde Redhead continues to carve out a singular niche. This kool thing is all their own.

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