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Wake Me
Artist: Tal and Acacia
http://www.talandacacia.com
Label: Essential Records / Sony Music
Time: 11 tracks / 39:54

Skillfully combining the modern sensibility of Nelly Fortado with some deceptively simple but well-crafted songwriting and a good dose of late-sixties summertime pop, Tal and Acacia’s debut project is some pretty nutritious ear-candy.

Wake Me is an enjoyable collection of quirky and thoroughly engaging songs deftly produced by Monroe Jones (with a little help on a couple of tracks by Dan Muckala and Chuck Butler) – yes, I used the ‘Q’ word. The overall sound of the album is unquestionably pop, but with a quirky ‘indie’ edge and a nostalgic nod to the sixties. Often starting with a very basic acoustic guitar, and utilizing earthy, thumping bass lines, there’s a good basic foundation to these songs which, on tracks like the infectious, “Clearview,” and “Top Priority,” take advantage of some economically-played piano notes and big percussion sounds. Although electronic samples also come into play throughout the project, it never goes so far as to fall into the electronica category and certainly comes off better when the beat boxes go away and the ‘real’ drums take over. 

Often singing with clipped but intelligent phrasing and a very distinctive vocal timbre, Tal and Acacia might be an acquired taste for some (remember Megan, from this year’s American Idol?) but these two sisters have the advantage of the instinctively clever harmony (listen to the excellent title track) that only siblings can have – often finding very interesting twists and turns in a melody that would otherwise be ordinary. Even though there might be a tendency to get a little bit too cute, vocally (these girls do seem to love singing short bursts of “oh-oh, who-oh, oh no, no-no,” etc.) when they get to the songs with a little bit more gravitas, like “Drifting Away,”  “Yahweh,” and the powerful closer, “Warrior Child,” they get down to business with vocals that  become more breathy and emotional, like a more serious version of The Caravelles, of 1963’s  “You Don’t Have to be a Baby to Cry.” Whichever style they’re singing in, though, Tal and Acacia have the ring of truth and honesty, not to mention the occasional dose of real passion, in their delivery.

Even when the subject is as familiar as “Garbage In,” the most CCM-oriented track on the project, Tal and Acacia manage to transform the bouncy tune into a better than average pop track with a musical left turn at the bridge, nice use of piano and orchestra hits, and heartfelt, honest lyrics. If your musical appetite is craving some bubble-gum, “Merry Go Round” and “Love’s Gonna Getcha” definitely go there, although infusing the songs with considerably more meaning and thought than you would have found in any song by The Archies. Yes, it’s fun, it’s pop – hey, it’s even got the word ‘getcha’ in the title.

As playful as they can sound, Tal and Acacia apparently can also be all business when it comes to relationships, as they get all Fleming and John on some misguided ex, in “Walking Your Dog,” which, by the way, they won’t be doing. This one bit of inter-personals aside, Wake Me is a solidly Christian album in lyrical content. Like the music, though, the lyrics are straightforward but not naïve, direct but not clichéd. Wake Me is in many ways like a product of the ‘Jesus Music’ of the sixties and seventies, but all grown up. 

Refreshingly direct and full of a kind-of staccato energy, Wake Me is an album of songs with plenty of hooks, enough pop-funk to keep your head bobbing, a solid bedrock of Christian content, and even a ‘better-not-mess-with-me, buddy’ song for good measure. Tal and Acacia have flexible, distinctive and, yes - quirky voices which are the real stars of the show here, and are backed up by solid, clever production and well-written songs. So, what’s to keep you from wanting this? Not enough angst for ya’? 

By the way – give me props for not making any jokes about Tal and Acacia’s initials.
After all, I’m…..
Bert Saraco
http://www.myspace.com/expressimage   
http://expressimagephoto.tripod.com 

 



Siblings on the cover of their major label debut-one of looking like Sarah Michelle Gellar and the other like Sara Evans-create almost innervatingly ingratiating rhythmic folk pop with occasional outre rhythmic elements. And I, for one, have been waiting for it.

Regular 'Booth readers will know that Tal & Acacia did right by me with their delicately girlish vocals and catchy tuneage when they openned for Superchick this past spring. And that was with the gals playing acoustic guitar to backing tracks. Arrangements on Wake Me remain spartan enough for the sisters to not need many other people accompanying them should they tour with a full band. 

And per my previous review, T & A fulfill my previous impression of their sounding like the cousins of U.S. acoustic pop-rocking Serene & Pearl/Considering Lilly and English folkie trip-hopstress Beth Orton (and it still amuses me that they had no idea what I was on about when articulated the latter comparison to them). Occasionally echoey arrangements and often danceable rhythms, sometimes by way of British dancehall tradition, suffuse the coffeehouse strumming and those voices that sound like the cutest of Kewpie dolls coming to life.  

Content follows form in good stead, too. Vacation Bible School simplicity of sentiment as expressed in "Merry Go Round" and "Top Priority" (the melody of which stayed most strongly with me of their five numbers on that S-chick bill) contrast with the darker confession of "Drifting Away" and a multi-leveled Satan dismissal on "Walking Your Dog." and just to show that they're versatile enough to crib from Twila Paris, they end with tensely balladic "Warrior Child." 

If not as serendipitously radical a shaking up of cCm as the Essential debut of their intermittently folkie labelmates in Jars of Clay, Tal & Acacia ought to bring a fresh flavor to a lot of the same radio formats those guys did 15 years ago. And that means general market, too. 

Who'd want to say no to girls this charming, anyway?
 
Jamie Lee Rake    

 
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