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FRENCH KICKS "Swimming" Vagrant

The French Kicks' sound reaches for the stars.
The French Kicks' sound reaches for the stars. (By Noah Kalina)

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Friday, April 18, 2008

FRENCH KICKS"Swimming"Vagrant

IN THE CROWDED neighborhood of New York neo-punk, the French Kicks was one of many bands just good enough not to be evicted. Perhaps that's why the quartet moved into pop territory in 2006 with "Two Thousand," which offered a more deliberate and layered sound.

The new "Swimming" completes the band's stylistic relocation. The self-produced album (available now as a download and next month as a CD) draws on '60s folk-rock, '70s light-soul and other styles known for their airiness.

Such songs as "Abandon" and the samba-kissed "Said So What" aren't entirely without weight; drummer Aaron Thurston provides a steady, if understated, pulse. And titles such as "Sex Tourists" indicate that the Kicks are still making visits to the real world.

But the album's dominant timbres, from Nick Stumpf's and Josh Wise's falsettos to the chiming keyboards and ukulele-like guitars, reach for the stars. It's only fitting that one of the album's most sumptuous tracks, "Atlanta," is vaguely reminiscent of the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby."

With "Swimming," the French Kicks make music that floats above everyday cares.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Thursday with Ravens & Chimes at the Rock and Roll Hotel (202-388-7625,http://www.rockandrollhoteldc.com). Show starts at 8:30.


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