One Track Mind: Bobby and Suzy, "Sink Hole" (2011)

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At first, there’s a homespun innocence about Bobby and Suzy, this brother-and-sister duo. Recording in their music room at Charleston, S.C., you can almost see them as they once were — children, maybe in Halloween costumes, pretending to be a grown up version of somebody else.

“The basis of the band,” their web site reminds, “began in around 1991, when their father created a bedtime story ‘Flipper, and Bobby and Suzy.'” The pair — real names: Nathan (founder of Stella by Starlight, winner of a MTV Woodie award) and Gwyn Fowler — have cited influences ranging from the jokey keytar instrument and old thrift-store records to Hasbro’s Bop It Extreme 2, a talking electronic musical device that commands you to spin, pull and dance to four distinct beats — pop, rock, Latin and R&B.

It all started to sound too precious by half. Yet, time spent with their new EP Alouette’s Cafe, and in particular the standout closer “Sink Hole,” finds the siblings drawing distinct images, creating coherent tension, talking about very adult things. The texture of the record, an outburst of electroacoustic sunshine built on plinky keyboard scronks and cooing vocal interplay, is all child-like wonder. Yet, I’m happy to report, this exhuberance, self-contained and happily unselfconscious, doesn’t overtake “Sink Hole.” Instead, there’s a chance taking that comes from working together with someone whom you completely trust.

“Sink Hole” opens up at the bridge, as the vocal interplay bounces all around the record. The verse then stops short for a quietly emotive moment, as Gwyn’s voice takes center stage for a poetic line that mirrors Bobby and Suzy’s own expectation-defying joys: “Are we up; are we down?” When “Sink Hole” rejoins its crunchy rhythm, it has moved forever past whatever cutesy commonplace expectations once existed.

Where I had initially dreaded treacle, instead I found a touching statement of familial warmth, adventurous songcraft — and fun, sure, but the unsilly kind. Music of this depth demands that, and Bobby and Suzy don’t disappoint.

Bobby and Suzy’s Alouette’s Cafe is available for free download at their Web site, www.pandapush.com/bobbyandsuzy/.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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