by Sheri Boggs
Hailed as "The Girl from Ipanema Meets Indie Rock," the Mosquitos' debut eponymous CD (on Bar None Records) abounds in lulling bossa nova rhythms, pensive lyrics and daiquiri-smooth vocals. As the PR legend goes, one member was repeatedly exposed to Sergio Mendes' Brasil 65 in utero, another grew up playing on the white sand beaches of Ipanema dreaming of Manhattan, and a third was grounded for "hotwiring the Wurlitzer organ at the First Church of Divine Grace."
OK, so maybe such PR spin veers dangerously close to being painfully, self-consciously precious, but the fact remains, the Mosquitos are a pleasing fusion of Hammond organ honks, frontwoman Juju Stulbach's breathy intonations and cool indie pop 'tude. The first track, "Rainsong," is as effervescent as seltzer water, as feverishly hypnotic as a touch of malaria. Sung in Portuguese -- Stulbach did, in fact, grow up near Rio de Janeiro -- "Rainsong" is one of those songs you desperately want to sing along to even if you have no idea what you're saying.
Stulbach occasionally hands off the mike to real-life partner Chris Root, whose voice isn't nearly as good as hers, but who adds a sense of geek longing to such warbly love songs as "Juju & amp; Blue" and "Mosquito" (an amusing meditation on the more parasitic aspects of romance). The bossa nova songs are good and plenty-ful -- half pink sweetness, half hipster black. The use of the organ is deliciously kitschy -- several songs seem to be set on Hammond's infamous "Teen Beat" key -- but the Mosquitos exercise enough restraint that it never gets to be too much. A similar sense of friendly distance infuses the more indie pop selections as well. "Policeman" is an autobiographical story of running into trouble with the Brazilian law; "So Far Away" has a nice bit of Marty Robbins-esque guitar work, while "Semente" employs such space jazz elements as echoing sonar beeps and ethereal twinkles.
The Mosquitos' first American tour has them opening for the likes of Shonen Knife and Clem Snide, and their "endless summer" sound has even been co-opted by the Bailey's Irish Cream folks for their new "Mini Bailey's" commercial. Still, they're not well known enough yet to feel like you're just listening to the latest flavor of the week. So rapidamente, catch yourself some Mosquito action before everyone else discovers them come spring.
Publication date: 02/05/04