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Ear candy

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The Apples in Stereo
Monday, Feb. 26, High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.

The Apples in Stereo and their pop-besotted leader, Robert Schneider, give themselves over completely to shiny, happy music on New Magnetic Wonder, their first album in half a decade. The album's the first to be distributed by actor Elijah Wood's Simian imprint, but the 14-year-old pop juggernaut hardly needs the Hollywood endorsement. Along with Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel and Of Montreal, the band was a key member of Elephant 6, a collective/record label that produced influential neo-psychedelic pop from bases in Denver and Athens, Ga. The fact is, Schneider and company charmed indie-dom long ago with their bedazzling mash-ups of Beach Boys-style sweetness and Summer of Love psychedelia. 'Signal in the Sky,' their sonic contribution to The Powerpuff Girls cartoon series, also attracted more than a few animation addicts to their cause.

Parts of the new disc are devoted to a 'Non-Pythagorean' scale that Schneider derived through the use of logarithms, in order to move beyond the established Western musical tradition. But both recent and longtime fans probably care far more about the glistening ear candy that washes over 'Energy,' 'Same Old Drag' and other peppy homages to the Beach Boys and the Electric Light Orchestra.

While Schneider's work on New Magnetic Wonder is impressively frothy, his most recent pop triumph, 'Stephen, Stephen,' isn't even on the album. Schneider wrote it for the infamous recent episode of The Colbert Report on which the show's unctuous, mocking host challenged his indie-rocking arch-nemesis, Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk, in a solo riff-off. Schneider warmed up the proceedings with his gooey, smirking ode to Colbert and nearly stole the show from both the featured combatants and guest stars Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen and Henry Kissinger.

Since the release of 2002's Velocity of Sound, the Apples in Stereo have lost several members, including Schneider's ex-wife Hilarie Sidney, who departed last August. Indeed, half the touring group that will play the High Noon Saloon came on board in 2006.

The new blood doesn't appear to have changed Schneider's role in the recording studio, where he's still the Apples' dominant creative voice. But all those personnel changes will surely influence the band's live sound, which in the past has run from pristine to downright chaotic. Of course, as long as they get it together for glistening versions of 'Stephen, Stephen' and infinitely hummable oldies like 'Tidal Wave' and 'Green Machine,' everyone in attendance is guaranteed to walk away smiling.

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