Recordings: The Apples in Stereo – New Magnetic Wonder

    3 1/2 out of 5 stars

    After Apples in Stereo composer Robert Schneider claimed to have changed sound’s standard frequencies with natural logarithms on the track “Non-Pythagorean Composition”” — musical academia only a “LOTR”” fan could love — he fittingly chose to release the album on Elijah Wood’s new label. And with 26 enchanting tracks, you’ll spend more time pulling apart their intricate layers than you’d ever spend studying for calculus.

    Like the best medicine — potent yet easy to swallow — Stereo’s first release in five years gives unexpected depth to upbeat pop melodies. The faint, quickening pulse behind the guitar choruses of “Play Tough”” is a dose of bittersweet ’60s love and spinning psychedelics, and the early Beatles-era harmonies, fuzzed by modern electronics on “Open Eyes,”” are as feel-good as Of Montreal but as twisted as Animal Collective.

    On short, rampantly processed transitional pieces — like the 30-second, “Scream””-like voice distortion of “Hello Lola”” — mathematical precision is lost to immaturity. But strange special effects also give many of the songs their intrigue, an element that can’t be pinpointed — some garbling every third note or an obscured sound played in reverse — and keeps us hooked.

    Forget vitamins. New Magnetic Wonder will so richly meet your daily pop-rock requirements that it could keep the doctor away for another five years — or as long as it takes Schneider to again rewrite the laws of sound.

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