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Psapp are a duo originating from London responsible for the creation of a genre with the slightly tongue-in-cheek title of "toytronica", so called because of the duo's use of toy instruments to create their unique sound. Despite being featured on the title track of Gray's Anatomy and had the obligatory indie band honour of featuring on the soundtrack for The OC, Psapp still remain criminally obscure in the UK. All I Ever Wanted is the second full length album, released in 2006, after having been picked up by the Domino label.
The sound which dominates the album is built up in layers, using traditional instruments like keyboard, strings, guitar as a base, and then layering other sounds on top of this - toy pianos, digital glitches, maracas, bicycle bells, crackling paper, the squeaking of rubber ducks - the duo are inspired by "anything that's silly and makes stupid noises". Their collection of instruments apparently is now at the stage where it fills two rooms and includes xylophones, water pipes, several egg slicers and even a mechanical chicken named Brunhilde. The album's credits include thanks to Masa and Fani who splash bathwater on "Hi", Anna-Beatrice who donated her electric chicken (presumably the aforementioned Brunhilde), and even The Cat with No Name, who squeaks at an undisclosed location on the album! Thankfully what could so easily have become gimmicky is prevented from crossing that line simply by the fact that the songwriting is strong throughout. Despite the electronica tag, this is fundamentally a pop album, with accessible songs with a kooky twist. Much of the credit here has to go to the studio geek half of the duo, Carim Clasmann, who takes production credits for this album, and the production is flawless throughout.
The opening track, "Hi", is all broken drum beats and showcases Galia Durant's sultry, velvet coated, laid back voice which is the perfect partner to the quirky beats. The lyrics throughout the album have a childlike twist, using phrases in a slightly odd way that gives a sense of charm, in phrases like "Get out the abacus and count this" and "And though I don't know what comes next/ I will not hold my horses" The syncopated beats drive through the album, especially on its most catchy songs. "Needle and Thread" is one of my favourite tracks of the album - lyrically cute and quirky, with my favourite phrase being "there is no good pen to write you down"
The album has a mellow feel to it and the more laid back tracks are undoubtedly the most beautiful parts of the album. "This way" has a laid back jazz feel, allowing Durant's voice to just drip honey coated sensuality, and "Hill of our Home" is another standout track, propelled by the string and piano backing. The album as a whole has a melancholy feel to it, with multi-dimensional tracks that on the surface appear to be cute, but actually have a rather cynical undertone. Nowhere is this more true than "King of You", which uses familiar guitar riffs, weaving in samba-like percussion, the laid back vocals disguising the bitter lyrical content.
The album's closer, "Upstairs", is sad and achingly beautiful, a perfect closer if I ever heard one - sparsely orchestrated, with only Durant's voice accompanied by carefully placed bell chimes.
The eccentricity even overspills into the album's artwork - produced in a digipack, the inlay shows kookily etched sketches of cats in various unlikely scenarios.
The album as a whole is unique, charming, and refreshingly unpretentious - the impeccably produced layered electronic sound reminiscent of The Postal Service, Sufjan Stevens, or even Imogen Heap, but with an added element of tongue in cheek fun about it. A description of the music makes it all sound very experimental and avant garde, but the finished product sounds so perfect and natural that it's very accessible. It's a fusion of mischief, joy, eccentricity, melancholy, which all melds together seamlessly. Don't just write in the comments that you've never heard of this group - why not head over to youtube and actually listen to some of it and see if it sounds like your thing?
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 King Of You
3 This Way
4 Needle & Thread
5 New Rubbers
7 Hill Of Our Home
8 The Words
9 Make Up
10 Eating Spiders