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Music of the Week &mdash September 17, 2006

Blue Sky Frequency: And Then She Smiled

There must be a lot of bands comparable to Blue Sky Frequency: making music that ranges from good to very good but isn’t extremely distinctive, performing locally or regionally while working day jobs, recording on small independent labels with shaky distribution.

The “long tail” of Intenet commerce ought to make it easier for such artists to realize a more useful amount of compensation, and I’m at least one instance of that idea working out in practice. I don’t suppose they made more than a dollar or so when I bought their album from eMusic, but I would almost certainly never have heard of them at all if they hadn’t been there. Googling their name turns up only a few dozen distinct references. They don’t even have an All Music Guide entry.

Yet I’m really pretty fond of this album. No, it’s not great or ground-breaking, but it’s better than a lot of stuff released by artists who attained the status of “legendary” for achievements now thirty or more years in the past and are now coasting on reputation and fan loyalty. (I don’t think I’ll mention any names at the moment.)

If you like the kind of music that gets tagged with labels like “shoegazer” and “dream-pop,” And Then She Smiled is very much worth hearing. It’s slow, dreamy, melodic music that falls somewhere in the stylistic neighborhoods of Slowdive and Mazzy Star—with the exception of one song, it’s not as good as the best of those groups, but is still very enjoyable. The exception is “Until the End,” a beautiful, simple promise of fidelity which is not only similar to but as good as some of Mazzy Star’s best—I think anyone who liked songs like “Fade Into You” would find it worthwhile to get this one track, at least.

Here’s the album’s eMusic link where you can hear samples. You can also buy the cd for all of $5 from the online store of the label, North of January. The web site makes it hard to find, but you can also download an mp3 of one song—not by any means the best, in my opinion, but de gustibus—I can’t link properly to it because it’s in a frame, but you can get to the stripped-out core of it here. To see it in context, with a couple of reviewer comments, look at the cover on the eMusic page, go to the North of January home page, click on the “Releases” link, then locate and click on the cover art, which will take you to the album. Why not at least put the names of the releases on the “Releases” page? Like I said, shaky distribution. (But this is not the only North of January release I’ve greatly enjoyed.)

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