April 16, 2009

Test Spin: Telekinesis!

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Like an Austin Powers hip shake for a fembot, a good power-pop album may leave a hipster confused, distraught and feeling some serious cognitive dissonance. For power-pop, that cheeriest and most maligned of indie genres, goes against all the precepts of a hipster musical education: “Thou shalt not smile, thou shalt not dance — thou shalt cross your arms and bob your head instead.”
Telekinesis!, the musical brainchild of Michael Lerner, is sure to incur the Austin Powers effect on any hipster who crosses paths with its eponymous debut album, a 30-minute blitz of sunny, sugary (but never syrupy) power-pop that strangles your short-term memory and refuses to let go.
On a cursory examination, Telekinesis! may appear to have more in common with indie titans Death Cab for Cutie than with Phantom Planet or any other power-pop band. For one thing, both bands hail from Seattle, WA. And then there’s Lerner’s voice, which sounds eerily like Ben Gibbard’s, that mellifluous, melancholy croon. The most obvious connection, however, is the album’s pedigree: Telekinesis! is produced by Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla.
But move a few songs into Telekinesis! and the Death Cab comparison quickly fizzles. Though the album contains a few slower acoustic numbers, most of it is packed with up-tempo, turbo-charged power-pop gems — Lerner and his fuzzy electric guitar at the fore, a stellar rhythm section behind.
Whether Telekinesis! will gain any traction in more selective circles remains to be seen, though it’s hard to imagine music this cheery not warming the heart of even the most hardened hipster. Because really, for all of the skepticism power-pop evinces, it’s impossible to listen to Telekinesis! and not feel incredibly happy — no matter how uncool that makes you look.