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Little Joy
Little Joy Charles Ubaghs , November 24th, 2008 08:41

It’s a simple story. Boy in a band plays Portuguese festival and meets a boy in another band. General bonhomie is felt and they while away the hours excitedly chatting about musical possibilities. Fast forward one year, a mutual female friend in LA insists they get back in touch. And so, they do.

Such is the genesis of Little Joy; a collaboration between Rodrigo Amarente from Brazil’s Los Hermanos, Fabrizo Moretti from New York’s The Strokes and Binki Shapiro, their mutual friend and now Mr. Moretti’s main-squeeze.

Side projects, and this record is certainly approached as such, are often difficult to embrace, especially when one of the parties involved happens to enjoy Fab’s high profile. The man’s involvement in any musical activity outside of The Strokes will naturally raise a curious eyebrow, or two. But, as most of us can attest, side projects are typically filed under disposable indulgence, an opportunity for the musician in question to scratch an itch before returning to the musical nine-to-five we expect and often prefer.

So it’s much to Fab and crew’s credit that Little Joy’s debut rarely leaves one longing for The Stroke’s leather-clad power pop. Instead of setting up base camp amidst the Bowery sounds of late ‘70s New York, the trio look to broader horizons and flesh out an admittedly indie rock backbone with dabs of bossa nova, tropacalia and Astrud Gilberto flavoured chanson on the likes of 'Play the Part' and the Binki led 'Unattainable'.

Tapping into global sounds may be this year’s sonic influence of choice, but the band avoid tarnishing their output with the heavy-handed juxtaposition currently passing for musical progression among many of Fab’s NY peers. Little Joy’s eponymous debut is a relatively seam-free affair that doesn’t attempt to squeeze square blocks into round holes and then call the resulting clash art. This is simply understated music that happily meanders along as the threesome merrily breeze through wave after wave of gentle harmonies, with an electric guitar making the occasional guest appearance.

Though don’t assume this to be a fangs-free collection destined for the coffee table set. 'No One’s Better Sake' has more than enough stomp to keep fans of Fab’s other gang satiated, while the swinging melodies of opener 'The Next Time Around' could easily fit within Os Mutantes’ back catalogue. The delights are here and they’re here aplenty, they just move at a less frantic pace than what the many may expect.

This trio may not top year-end critic’s lists, but if some enterprising young scribe decides to hand out an award for most pleasant surprise of 2008, then Little Joy are clearly frontrunners for the prize.