Not to get too gossipy or anything, but did you hear about the Apples in Stereo? After years of marriage, drummer Hilarie Sidney and guitarist Robert Schneider have broken up. Which would be nothing but old dirty laundry, except for the interesting fact that Schneider and Sidney have just released debuts by their respective new side projects: the High Water Marks and Ulysses.
Fittingly, Songs About the Ocean and 010 each represent one facet of what the Apples are all about. Ocean is a sprinting, jittery burst of giddy pop that gives Sidney -- now on rhythm guitar -- the room to stretch her punchy songwriting and winsome, lilting voice to an extreme that's only been heard on a handful of Apples songs. Joined by members of Palermo, Oranger and Preston School of Industry, she's put an undeniably sunny spin on the High Water Marks -- a far cry from Schneider's frantic, fractured Ulysses. On 010, his voice, which once seemed about to shatter out of sheer euphoria, is eroded, injured, even bitter. Who ever thought we'd hear the helium-puffing Elephant 6 patriarch sing lines like "Inside a pissed-off prostitute/I try to get my mind off you"? Not that the Apples' music is entirely free of shadows and id-ridden innuendos. But Schneider always cast a floodlight of hope and laughter over his melancholy; on these slashing, infectious requiems, he sulks in a darkened room with the curtains drawn, refusing to flip the switch on.
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It would be easy to view these discs together as some kind of surgically separated, indie-rock analog of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, rife with hints about its creators' romantic discord. True, like Buckingham and Nicks before them, Schneider and Sidney are keeping the band together regardless of their schism; the Apples in Stereo are already plotting their next record. Hopefully, though, these two exercises of newfound freedom aren't harbingers of the Apples' decay. While Ocean and 010 are satisfying and fully functional entities on their own, there's a certain synergy missing from them that leaves both records sounding like unfinished halves rather than wholes.