Apollo Sunshine, with Apples in Stereo and the High Water Marks
In the short history since 9/11, there hasn't been a song that so accurately sums up the feelings of that ambush and its aftermath as Apollo Sunshine's "Happening" does, and there probably won't be. "Happening" is a mess of screamed sentiment and squealing synths, the music as ragged and ripped apart as Sam Cohen's voice is when he's shouting, "This is finally happening / A happening and I'm happy and / I see God and I see lights and / Now fire flies in clear blues skies." That said, Katonah, Apollo Sunshine's accomplished debut, is not summed up by that particular song. Instead, the album finds a band that is a work in progress, unsure of what it wants to say or how to say it; the group ping-pongs between the studio slickness of tourmates Apples in Stereo and the eccentric emotion of Neutral Milk Hotel, never completely choosing a side. Cohen begins the album (with the exhilarating "Fear of Heights") as "an airplane with wings spread wide and weaving through the others" and ends it as a "Hot Air Balloon," "moving backwards in time." The rest of the time is spent stuck between those opposites, drifting along or zooming ahead, confused about sex ("The Egg") or confused about his confusion ("Sheets with Stars"). Consider it the musical sequel to Rushmore.
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