Album Reviews: Only Thing I Ever Wanted by PsappPsapp is one of those rare bands whose music is so distinctive and finely textured that it seems to exist in its own little world. Programmed beats shuffle alongside the organic sounds of plunking toy pianos and rattling jars of pebbles; violins and pianos quietly rise out of hushed electronic soundscapes; and Galia Durant's velvet voice, at once sultry and coolly detached, has the quality of someone singing in a trance. Actually, the word "soundscape," as tired and overused as it is, doesn't quite capture what it is about Psapp's music that's so evocative. This isn't the sound of wide open spaces but rather of cozy, dusty Victorian drawing rooms and children's closets piled high with old toys and hand-knit blankets. It's a hermetically sealed world, but an inviting one, and never more so than on the band's second full-length album, The Only Thing I Ever Wanted.
Durant and her partner-in-crime, Carim Clasmann, have always had a knack for melody that's kept the quirkiness of their music from getting completely out of hand, but that knack seems to have blossomed into full-fledged brilliance here. Even the songs with the most clickety-clackety arrangements, like "New Rubbers," would probably work as well with just a piano and voice. In fact, as if to underscore this point, Psapp include a gorgeous ballad, "Make Up," that's exactly that -- a piano (a real one, not a toy) and a beautifully understated vocal from Durant.
There's really not a weak track among the 11 that make up The Only Thing I Ever Wanted -- from the tightly wound opening, "Hi," on which Durant vows, "I will not hold my horses," to the stately, mournful closer, "Upstairs," on which she begs someone to teach her "to be humble and good." Psapp take electronic music and give it soul; they take Tom Waits-like clatter and give it tenderness; they take pop music and make it experimental and challenging. And with The Only Thing I Ever Wanted, they've made one of the best albums of 2006. - Andy Hermann
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