Ivy is one of those bands that has taken awhile to rise into full public view. And it's about time. Their fifth album "In the Clear" has the same charming pop and trippy melodies, but the band also expands on their guitar pop -- here it's a bit louder and more prominent, but very smooth.
After an airy opening song, Ivy launches into a series of guitar-led pop songs, like "Thinking About You" which is a little too bouncy for its own good. At first listen, some of these songs are rather dancepoppy, and it seems that Dominique Durand's voice is about to sink under the bouncy sounds. But a second or third listen reveals the pretty trip-hop melodies hidden under the beats.
Halfway through, the tempo changes drastically: "Four in the Morning" is a sleepy, swoony ballad, followed by some slow fuzzy songs and enchanting little pop songs. These are more like Ivy's past work, and they seem to come more easily than the catchier songs.
Ivy's has always been a prettier, more sophisticated kind of pop music, not what people usually think of as "pop." When people think of pop music, they generally think of generic-sounding, empty tunes tailored for radio play. Ivy is not anything like that -- instead it's light, airy melodies with very pretty vocals, never bringing to mind anything but itself.
And Dominique Durand's vocals are at the heart of Ivy's music -- her voice is sweet, a little wistful, and has the warm, distant quality that the music needs. Best of all, she's versatile. "Can't hide another smile/I've been thinking about you," she purrs near the beginning. But by the penultimate song, she's murmuring quietly about how "I should've known by now/I should have known better/and I feel so free..."
Jody Porter and James Iha (of Smashing Pumpkins fame) do a good job with the guitars, keeping things fast and sometimes a bit loud, although occasionally they overwhelm Durand's voice. The softer keyboard melodies come from the very talented Steve Osbourne, and songs like "Ocean City Girl" are graced with some smooth violin.
The guitars are a bit louder in "In the Clear," but Ivy's unique pop sound is sure to win over both new listeners and longtime fans. Definitely a keeper.