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West Indian Girl4th & Wall (Milan Records)Robert James –Vocals/GuitarFrancis Ten – Bass Mariqueen Maandig – Vocals/PercussionMark Lewis – Drums /Backing VocalsNathan Van Hala – Keyboards Amy White – Keyboards/Backing VocalsAlluring and revolutionary, bright and buoyant and – perhaps most important – destined for world domination – the Los Angeles-based musical collective known as West Indian Girl has created its majestic, engaging sophomore disc 4th & Wall. Serving up an album of instant, artful pop classics on the band’s first release for Milan (Emilie Simon, Lisa Gerard) this one-time studio duo turned living, breathing modern rock sextet goes well beyond the electronic banner under which it once uncomfortably resided.Launched by the expansive and amazingly memorable “Blue Wave,” West Indian Girl’s fusion of undeniable guitar riffs, prog-like keyboard flourishes and pulsing rhythms pour a perfect foundation for the mind-melding hook and tsunami of blissful harmonies that follow. “It’s about finding the best thing in life, be it a wave or an ecstatic peace or a perfect escape,” co-founding bassist Francis Ten says. Stemming from an infectious hook and a guitar part brought to the band by his decade-long musical partner Robert James, the ode to surfing on the bluest wave is destined to become a favorite of both discerning music lovers and aberrant fun seekers across the globe. Still, it’s surprising to learn that the shimmering, sun-streaked anthem (and its parent album) was crafted amid the decaying, urban environs where the group’s studio resides. And it’s that corner of the world that gives West Indian Girl – which also counts vocalist Mariqueen Maandig, keyboardist Nathan Van Hala, drummer Mark Lewis and keyboardist/vocalist Amy White – its album title.“4th & Wall is our hidden sanctuary,” Rob explains. “It’s in an old warehouse surrounded by a humble community of homeless people living in cardboard boxes and tents. They’re our ancient friends listening to us every night in the rain, cold and sweltering heat. We play for them as much for ourselves. It’s the place where we conjure up spirits and manifest visions – visions of a better place.”To which Fran succinctly interjects, “There’s piss and shit and rats. And there lies the irony; the dichotomy; because our record is the antithesis of that.”As evidenced by the gorgeous, lilting soundscape “All My Friends,” the trippy surf-meets-soul concoction “Up The Coast,” and the exquisitely crafted, synth-bolstered mid-tempo rocker “Visions,” 4th & Wall gives off an intoxicating, irresistible vibe with images of beautiful ocean views. Light years away from their facility’s dirty concrete and broken bottle glass world, the beach is alive in its members via the lilting, dreamy float of “Indian Ocean,” and the aforementioned “Blue Wave.” “It’s become a subconscious thing when you live in Southern California. We’re all just fifteen minutes or so from the beach,” Fran says. “I just think it becomes part of you.” To which Rob adds, “It’s funny how being close to a massive ocean seeps into your consciousness. The waves, the deep blue horizons, the sound, the animals...there’s a parallel universe out there. It can't be ignored.”Since its brief but successful stint with Astralwerks – which produced their eponymous 2004 debut and a subsequent Remix EP – Rob and Fran have morphed West Indian Girl into the sextet in place on 4th & Wall. With Mariqueen and Mark firmly in place, the group’s founders handled a series of challenges, including the January 2006 addition of Nathan (after the departure of their original keyboardist) and the January 2007 placement of Amy with aplomb. Perfecting its craft with incessant touring, be it as headliners or sharing stages with bands like Gomez, The Album Leaf, Fischerspooner, The Coral, Turin Brakes, My Morning Jacket and Phoenix, the road dogs in West Indian Girl count recent appearances at Sundance, plus exemplary performances at the San Diego Street Scene and All Good Festival as highlights. Bolstered by the gorgeous presence and phenomenal range of Mariqueen, West Indian Girl takes its spirited live show to a level few acts can rival. These triumphant gigs are steered by the enthusiasm this band has for its songs. Crafted and edited meticulously by the group as a whole, it is not uncommon for the six piece to construct, deconstruct and change as the group collaborates.“The songwriting process is ever growing,” Rob explains. “There’s never a shortage of ideas from everyone. I bring in a lot of the ideas, but really the creative spark can come from any single member in the band. Once the idea is out there, it goes through an elaborate filtration process. I help guide the ship but everyone gets involved.”As for the harmonies, best exhibited on “Blue Wave” and the uplifting anthem “Get Up,” vocalist Mariqueen says, “I think harmonies are a natural thing for our band. Our voices tend to blend really well tog
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