FOR A WHILE THERE, IT SURE FELT LIKE INDIE ROCK was dead. Arguably, its demise could be blamed on the whole "electronica" revolution, and the media's rush to replace white guys with guitars with white guys with turntables as musical heroes. Or perhaps you might point the finger at Marilyn Manson and the return of the larger-than-life Rockstar. Really, who wants to listen to Mr. Whiny College Rock when you can have Mr. Anti-Christ Superstar AND his pyrotechnics?

Or, you could be honest and admit that the whole indie rock subgenre seemed to have just plain run out of steam. Irony is best taken in small doses, and for a movement that claimed to base itself on small, concise statements, indie rock had well exceeded its limit.

Thank God for bands like Beulah and the Ladybug Transistor. Rather than wallow in the same tired formula, these bands have expelled a desperately needed lung full of air into the expiring indie experience. The lo-fi aesthetic is still intact, but Beulah's When Your Heartstrings Break (Sugar Free) and the Ladybug Transistor's The Albermarle Sound (Merge) are irony-free, classic pop gems.

On The Albermarle Sound, the Ladybug Transistor play what came to be known a few years back as "orch-pop"--a terrible sounding name for a charmingly lo-fi take on '60s Bacharach-inspired pop. The band employs string arrangements, tastefully subdued vocals, and the occasional horn and flute embellishments, and it all comes off as beautifully out of time.

As for Beulah, it's almost impossible to listen to When Your Heartstrings Break without dancing around like a fool--in the best possible way. Maybe it's the trumpet (not an instrument I'd usually recommend exercising in this context), but there's something about Beulah that's so essentially optimistic and buoyant that it almost demands a physical response, especially in a live setting.

Maybe Beulah have tapped into something that's been missing from music--especially the indie variety--for far too long: the need to have fun. When watching this band, it's obvious that its members enjoy playing their songs together. And what's more, they want you to enjoy them, too.

Perhaps that's what is ultimately so appealing about Beulah and the Ladybug Transistor--the fact that both bands are willing to work hard to make you love them. Just like that Mechanical Animal guy, only smarter and on a smaller budget. And therefore, that much more deserving of your support.

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