May 1999
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Beulah When Your Heartstrings Break (Sugar Free)

A review by Courtney Knopf

Now that summer has almost arrived, itís time to shrug off the angsty winter/late spring blahs and get happy. Itís a time to toss your text books out the window and go skipping through fields full of flowers singing Ďsha-la-la.í More importantly, itís time for Beulah. Beulah are the musical equivalent of that cute and awkward boy you never had the guts to talk to in high school. A five piece from San Francisco fronted by Miles Kurosky and Bill Swan, Beulahís music is saturated in sugary sweet pop hooks and catchy harmonies that recall both The Beach Boys and the Beatles. Their sophomore effort, When Your Heartstrings Break is the perfect soundtrack for the summer. Produced in part by Robert Schneider from Apples In Stereo and co-released through the Applesí Elephant 6 Recording Company, itís no surprise that Beulah has the same pop-y flavour that have made the Apples so loved.

The album opens with "Score From Augusta," which bops along and sets the upbeat mood for the entire album. With only five regular members in the band, Beulah achieves its rich sound with the help of a string section, horn section and various other collaborators. "Sunday Under Glass" is steeped in Bacharachian horns and "Matter Vs. Space" uses a psychedelic synth along with some well placed "ooohs" and "ahhhhs."

"Emma Blowgunís Last Stand" is a lushly orchestrated gem that begins as an instrumental track and features a tabla and the same spacey synth, with the added bonus of a lush string arrangement. It then swells and explodes with the french horn and Kuroskyís quietly melodic vocals. "Calm Go the Wild Seas" is a gently mellow lullaby of a song that shows that the Beulahs can do more than make cutesy pop.

Utter pop perfection is reached on the last track "If We Can Land A Man On The Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heartí (which is neck and neck with R.E.M.ís "Itís the End Of the World As We Know It [And I Feel Fine]" for longest song title ever). What starts out sounding like a high school marching band horn section launches into a rocking anthem which includes violinists, a tambourine, a slightly mistuned piano and what sounds like a harpsichord. "All you need is a pretty song," decries the chorus. And when itís Beulah weíre talking about, thatís pretty much spot on. Who knew rock could be this fun?

It may sound like Beulah are a bit to precious for their own good, but how can you not love a band that sings about magic markers? The only drawback to When Your Heartstrings Break that I can find is that it clocks in at a mere 35 minutes. Please sirs, can we have some more?

[96%] A

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