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Arty yet melodic

By Calico Horse

Banter Records: 2008

This review first appeared in the June 5, 2008 issue of the North County Times.

San Diego art-rock ensemble Calico Horse is newly named, but not so newly formed – although the sound is as new as the name. Two of the band's four members had performed and recorded as The Clockwork Army; filled out to a quartet, on their first recording as Calico Horse the band is much more experimental than before, more focused on the art than on the rock in their fun, melodic hybrid.

While most of their 2006 EP, "A Catalyst for Change" (made by lead singer Emily Neveau and bassist Dave "Petti" Pettijohn), was a hyperkinetic, almost danceable bit of early '80s art music meets dance hall (think Kate Bush or Jane Siberry), the new record is definitely meant for listening, not dancing. Slower, quieter, more introspective, "Mirror" is every bit as off-kilter and occasionally disjointed as the earlier disc, yet even more melodic.

Neveau has a hauntingly beautiful voice (traces of Natalie Merchant), and the band is absolutely solid. Guitarist Matt Mournian brings an angular approach to his playing that sets off well against Neveau's singing and keyboards, while Pettijohn and drummer Tom Peart show a rhythmic flexibility that allow them to either propel the music forward or provide a light backdrop for Neveau and Mournian to dance atop.

Most importantly, the 13 songs they've written are, as mentioned, an unlikely melding of lush melodies and outright strange arrangements that make for a listen as unique as it is enjoyable.