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Cosmik Muse Rekords

Beliss generates bliss
Matthew Montgomery

Issue date: 4/15/08

Beliss, a bizarrely eponymous sister duo comprising Belinda and Melissa Underwood, perform a gentle sort of indie pop in the vein of harpist Joanna Newsom and the tradition-honed art song.

More than a simply relaxing band, Beliss takes simple instrumentation and simple vocal melody, meshing the two into a beautifully engaging amalgam. It's no surprise the two are from Portland, Ore., the home of any number of well crafted indie-pop meta-hits.

The two exercise an instrumental skill, with the tools of the trade involved ranging from the ubiquitous guitar and bass to ukulele, violins, flutes and more. While it may be tempting to create a Phil Spector-style "Wall of Sound" with their classically trained skill, they instead opt to take an approach more fitting of the late Elliott Smith than The Ronettes.

It's not terribly often music with a sense of calm such as this lands gracefully on listeners' ears, let alone hits them in more substantive ways. Beliss, though, manages to step from the path of any potential musical pitfalls: Each track is as strong as the last, and though much variety is not to be found from song to song, the album works remarkably well.

Sure, this is no OK Computer or Animals, and it certainly doesn't seem intended to work in the same sorts of ways, but it's also more than merely another mediocre collection of well-intentioned tracks pushed together at the last minute to appease a contract with an overbearing record label.

This self-titled release, a 14-song, 51-minute album, is replete with humble attempts at creating memorable melody, and, while it works, it seems Beliss has potential in droves - beyond relaxing indie pop, there is such a know-how that if more results don't end up hitting recordings, it will be a certain shame.

Too often a band forms, records an extremely promising freshman album, hints at a sophomore album, then quits - or records what becomes the avoidably mistaken attempt to appease insurmountable hype. It's happened before, and it will, no doubt about it, happen again; it would be a shame to lose these sisters to the machine to which so many have fallen victim.

Time will tell whether this album will inspire listeners and effect global change, but there's one thing that's immediately apparent: Belinda and Melissa Underwood will be hard to ignore if they continue on this dangerous path of musical intelligence.

Matthew Montgomery is the University Journal Webitor. He can be reached at mmontgomery@suujournal.com.

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