Alsace Lorraine Dark One

Naming your band after two regions in France is usually an open ticket to writing lovely little Euro pop ditties about summer love on the seaside while toasting Pernods in the evening. Although there are whispery "coos” from singer Isol (from Argentine space cadets Entre Rios), Dark One is an album that jumps all over that map, from ’80s Human League-style synths to twee pop to those Velvet Underground-inspired bands of the alternative ’90s. Six years on from their previous release, and recorded in various locales around the world, this album feels like a number of sessions forced into an essentially dream pop album by leader Paul Francke and a revolving cast of musicians. "Call for Papers” employs the hypnotic keyboard intro of Yo La Tengo’s "Blue-Line Swinger,” while in "Burden Down” and "No Stars,” Francke sings uncannily like Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, with a drum machine backing similar to some versions of "Electronic Renaissance.” Isol’s voice, sounding like a Latin Hope Sandoval, gives a nice feminine touch on some of the album’s darker songs. Musically however, the songs don’t hold enough memorable moments to stop one from blowing the dust off albums by the band’s influences, of which there are many. (Darla)