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It's one thing to hit all the right sonic touchstones; it's something else to balance your influences with a unique artistic sensibility. Led by Kylee Swenson's bold, breathy vocals, San Francisco dream-pop fivesome Loquat floats on faraway synths, glistening guitars, and tiptoe drum programming; images of an Edie Brickell-lead Church or Sneaker Pimping Cocteau Twins aren't far off. There's a gorgeous, devastating reminiscence in these tunes that's equally child-like and cynical, familiar and cold. Such contrasts give the music palpable dimension. And they're aided by Swenson's lyrical narratives, stories of long nights and conflicted love that are as tender and romantic as ironic and literal. "You are the line between weird and psychotic/But I wouldn't be surprised if we were related," Swenson coos on "Serial Mess," the loveliest tone poem about homicide you'll hear all year. The tracks eventually blur into a lush, somnambulant deluge -- like a wine-washed Vicodin binge -- proof that Loquat is effective at draping its shadowy, twilight veil over the listener. These atmospheric elements fall into sharp relief. Sharp, that is, in the softest, most serene possible way.


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