Sally Fields They Think They Can Take Us

Scott W. Gray, the sole member of Montreal's the Sally Fields, might just be going through an identity crisis. He's an art-rock singer/songwriter stuck in an indie-pop group's collective skin, both blessed and cursed with an uncanny simulacrum of Robert Pollard's voice and an obsession with finding the exact loop or Casio preset. A line could easily be drawn directly through Pollard's solo material to John Vanderslice's work, though Gray isn't nearly as lyrically trying or verbose. The electronic-tinged percussion isn't so much avant-garde as just-this-side of camp, but Gray's economical songwriting takes the main focus, peaking on highlights "Hestrie Cloete" and opener "Garrison Town." They, like the other six tracks, aim high, trying both for the poignancy of GBV's "Game of Pricks" ("The Reason," especially) and the beautiful subtlety of more computer-literate brethren like Plus Minus. Gray does receive a little help from trumpeter Brian Lipson and cellist Nikko Snyder, adding a warm layer of atmosphere to the EP, but he should be recognised as one of our more promising up-and-comers, one that will likely have little problem quickly winning over GBV and Vanderslice fanatics alike; though it'd be naive to assert that his appeal should, or will, end there. (Independent)