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Dream catchers all
Sweets for Slumber
The Dreamcatchers
CSP Records

Things That Show
Kris McKay
Shanacie Records

Perception can be altered by exposure, which is how classic soul--thought the coolest back in the punk era, when it was relatively underappreciated--became so tiresome once ascendant. If you have a roommate who constantly plays acoustically driven and folksy music like the Dreamcatchers', you may well want to chase all the unicorns out of their sylvan glade with a flamethrower.

If you are not so oppressed, however, the Dreamcatchers--mainly featuring the voices of Terri Collins and Jen Wanamaker playing off and against each other--might stimulate musings on the decline of mellow, relaxing music after the excesses of the '70.

For that is what Sweets for Slumber is, a pretty and soothing CD that examines hearts and feelings with a philosopher's curiosity and an almost medieval courtliness. The two vocalists' acoustic strumming is augmented by various instrumental additions--flute, electric guitar, viola--and the drumming of Martin McCall and Adam Armstrong's bass playing keep the listener from nodding off.

Would the Dreamcatchers be as disliked as Jackopierce if they had a major-label deal? Probably not; there's enough accessibility in their singing--beautifully clear vocals either joined in harmony or separated to flutter about each other like amorous butterflies--to convince you that they're just regular folks, an acceptance that JP could never quite manage, even though its genesis was average-Joe to the extreme.

It's an idea a lot like the British concept of exalting the amateur, of looking for that dedication that's somehow more than professional; it's a rejection of drum-machine perfection in favor of flavor--the wrinkles and worry lines (even a wart or two) that add up to character.

Kris McKay backed into singing, falling into a backup spot with Austin's fabled Wild Seeds. Now on her own, with Things That Show she weighs in with a voice that isn't technically perfect but far from flawed--the voice of someone whose friends were probably always telling her, "Y'know, you should sing."

It's a familiarity that makes Things an immediately affecting work, from the triumphant cover of the old English Beat hit "Save it for Later"--finally, here's someone unafraid to do a cover that actually sounds different than the source, but who is capable enough to keep it true--to introspective ruminations on life and love, Things That Show is the next chapter in straightforward vocal pop, the first whose punk and new-wave accents aren't conscious (marketing) decisions, but deeply ingrained influences that began in youth and here fashion new skin for an old ceremony.

--Matt Weitz


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