Sweet Trip: You Will Never Know Why

Sweet Trip—vocalists, guitarists, and synth players Roby Burgos and Valerie R. Cooper joined by bassist Aaron Porter and drummer Rob Uytingco—sprinkles its third full-length's pop-rock with only a modest dash of electronics (its most overtly electronic song, “Misfortunes Are Cruel” trots along joyously on a buoyant wave of skeletal drum machine beats, staccato bass lines, and glistening arpeggios) and an occasional nod to its better-known brethren. Right down to its whooshing synth effects and Bossa Nova rhythms, “Acting” is so reminiscent of Stereolab the group should demand royalties. Even so, it's hard to deny the exhilarating treatment Sweet Trip brings to the song, and one can't help but be awed by the labyrthine interplay of the song's bass and guitar parts (the lovely vocal coda doesn't hurt either). The odd, stop-start time signatures and polyphonic arrangements that crop up in other songs also suggest common ground with Stereolab, while the melodically rich “Pretending” invites comparison to Broadcast, with the song's breezy, innocent pop vibe not worlds removed from the Warp band's style.

“Conservation of Two” starts You Will Never Know Why promisingly with jagged guitar lines and a driving bass-and-drum pulse, but the real treat, here and elsewhere, are the graceful vocal harmonies and counterpoint of Burgos and Cooper. Slowing the pace slightly, the mid-tempo “Air Supply” opens in jangly indie-rock mode before Cooper's voice kicks in with a seductive swoon, while “Forever” supplants synth-drenched heaviness with a gorgeous vocal melody that raises the tune to pop classic levels. An album peak arrives when that delicious “You will drift away” melody arrives in “Milk,” with Cooper's voice single-handedly transporting the listener to some far-away paradise, while her breathy whisper likewise elevates the coffee-house folk-pop of “No Words to Be Found.” Not all of the songs are at that level (the closing instrumental “Female Lover” feels superfluous following in the wake of so many strong vocal songs), but there's certainly a handful that qualify as keepers. One expects that the albums' melodic charms will have been used up by the time the thirteenth song rolls around but the soaring “Your World is Eternally Complete” proves otherwise. You Will Never Know Why , like all great pop albums, is ultimately about hooks, and there are more than enough—vocal (“Milk”), guitar (“To the Moon”), and otherwise—in its fourteen songs to merit a well-earned recommendation.

October 2009