Saloon (This Is) What We Call Progress

After the first few bars of the opening track "Plastic Surgery,” it seems like Saloon might be nothing more than a simple take-off on Stereolab. Sure, there is single-chord guitar strumming, playful Moogs and lazy female vocals, but don’t be fooled, as this record has a lot more to offer. An astonishingly good debut for the Reading, England-based Saloon, (This is) What We Call Progress is filled with a variety of sounds, emotions and catchy melodies. Truly a group effort, the four members boast a pretty wide array of instrumentation, including trumpet, glockenspiel, synths and even the viola. Amanda Gomez even chips in as the engineer, in addition to her duties as vocalist. Recorded in Reading and mixed in New York, production was handled by Andrew Prinz (of the band Mahogany), who is getting quite a reputation these days as a top-notch producer and musical collaborator, Saloon being no exception. That said, the songs here are by no means overproduced. Various sounds combine delicately around simple melodies, anchored by Gomez’s velvety smooth voice. The tracks blend nicely with each other and the album is very well-paced. Playful songs like "Girls Are The New Boys” and "My Everyday Silver Is Plastic” are offset by more subtle arrangements, such as "Bicycle Thieves.” "Static” is a great example of how Saloon can build upon a humble chord progression and take it to ecstatic heights, culminating in bright washes of guitar. Although perhaps a bit presumptuous, the title (This Is) What We Call Progress is an apt description of this great debut release in the world of indie pop. (Darla)