"Soft Pedals" - Modern Skirts
Cushy and upbeat with a lounge-like gloss and an incomprehensible flow of lyrics ("Give me a knife and a merry-go-round"?), "Soft Pedals" is all smoothness and unruffled cool, combining crisp acoustic guitar rhythms, bell-like synth lines, chirpy electronics, and occasional bursts of layered harmonies. I'm not going to tell you what it's all about because I have no idea, although I am picking up a vague scent of soft-core porn that floats around the pretty much impervious storyline. Let me know if that's my imagination or not.
And let the record show that Modern Skirts, the Athens, Ga.-based foursome that has sculpted this mysteriously agreeable groove of a song, is not in any way a lounge band; they specialize, rather, in being eclectic, in a Fountains of Wayne kind of way. Had a different song from their album, All Of Us In Our Night, been chosen as the free and legal MP3, you'd be getting a completely different impression of the band right now. Singer Jay Gulley has a languid baritone that works in a variety of settings, although I do in particular like the breathy nonchalance he brings to the job here, along with the backing layers of vocals he provides for himself. I am particularly mystified about how he gets away with that "You got on top/I got on top" part (e.g. 2:05), flagrantly emphasizing the wrong syllable in the background harmonies, and yet making it sound so smooth and unflappable that you don't even notice (except that I went ahead and pointed it out to you). He manages to make it sounder righter than the right way would've sounded. Now that's smooth.
All Of Us In Our Night, the band's second CD, will be self-released next month.