NAMED TOP 10 OF 2002

Ethereal BritPop from ... Dayton? Yup, and it's one of the best regional releases of the year. Think early Verve with a lot of sonic adventurousness, celestial layers of sound and a strong knack for impacting, serpentine melodies.

Late last year, Dayton's Lab Partners managed to put out one of the finest overall albums of 2002 in the form of Daystar, their debut release for Daytonian label, Big Beef Records. It might be their last for the label though, as the band has received a lot of attention (including a Spin magazine write-up) thanks to the expansive, melodic "shoegazer" rave-ups that make Daystar such a mind-melting musical experience.

While Dayton has become known for bands that rely more on directness (GBV, Breeders, et al.), Lab Partners stand out by making music around an enchanting wall of big, lush sounds, concocted with layers of guitars and some keyboard accouterment (but no bass guitar). Area fans of early Verve, Ride and Spiritualized will be ecstatic to discover that music this effusive and beautifully ethereal is being created right in their relative backyard.

But the Partners especially excel in one area that most shoegazers gaze over -- melody. While many of their peers concentrate more on the jammy glide of the music, Lab Partners write songs that could be almost as effective played simply on an acoustic guitar. In that respect, the band is more in line with current dark-psychedelia practitioners like the Dandy Warhols and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. While the sweeping majesty of songs like "You Make It Better," the narcotic nod of "After Hours" and the T Rex-ish bop of "Magnify" start your head swimming, the band really connects when the subtly engulfing vocals of Michael Smith kick in. And when things get downright epic (like on the lengthy "Still Shine On" and "Furthest From Love"), the band shows they can get hazy with the best of 'em. Lab Partners might have their heads in the clouds, but they're certainly not lost there.
CityBeat grade: A.

- Mike Breen

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