'Apples' need to be put on your 'Stereo'

The band hasn't released a new album in five years.

The Apples in Stereo are back, and this time, they have Elijah Wood to answer to.

The Denver-based quintet hasn't released an album since 2002's Velocity of Sound.

The Apples return after a five-year break that saw members working on other projects and the departure of their drummer, Hilarie Sidney.

They've also switched labels to Yep Roc and released New Magnetic Wonder in association with Wood's new Simian label.

Despite all the changes, the break seems to have done them good.

New Magnetic Wonder is full of classic Apples psychedelic, with the addition of more electronic and synth-y elements.

The album also features several appearances from fellow members of the Elephant 6 collective, including Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel fame. The band has stuck to its roots but managed to evolve at the same time.

This is most apparent on album-opener "Can You Feel It?," which starts out with more distorted vocals and fuzzier guitars than one might expect from The Apples.

But of course, it also contains its signature (albeit slightly more distorted) Beach Boys-influenced harmonies and an extremely catchy melody.

It's a slightly more raucous Apples in Stereo, and it rocks.

The Apples in Stereo are nothing if not upbeat.

This is an album that lives in a world where the sun is shining, the stereo plays on full blast and all the stars are out at night.

Even when they sing about paranoia on "Beautiful Machine Parts 1-2," or radiation on the appropriately titled "Radiation," they do so with such enthusiasm that even lyrics like "Paranoid in your sleep/ And you have no voice/ Silently paranoid" (on "Beautiful Machine Parts 1-2") come across as downright cheerful.

Another standout is "Play Tough," a more straight-ahead, old-school Apples track that you very well might find yourself humming along to - even on your first listen.

"Open Eyes," the longest song on the album, sounds like the sonic lovechild of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" and Oasis' "Live Forever" with more celestially concerned lyrics.

"What do you see when you are inside a star?," the track asks. In fact, the whole album is full of sing-a-longs about stars, planets, light and energy, such as "Energy," a jangly acoustic number, with sweetly goofy lyrics like "And the world is made of energy/ And the world is electricity" that sound like the Apples' take on "Schoolhouse Rock."

Like 1999's Her Wallpaper Reverie, New Magnetic Wonder's longer songs are interspersed with instrumentals that include shimmering string arrangements, 18 seconds of ringing bells and one entitled "Vocoder Ba Ba" that is literally a band member saying "ba ba" into a vocoder.

This means that the album contains a daunting 24 tracks and sometimes the transitions from song to song are abrupt. It's tempting to say the album would sound a lot tighter and have more of an impact without all of the instrumental snippets but that looseness and element of surprise are part of the Apples' style and charm.

New Magnetic Wonder is an album with style and charm to spare. I think Elijah will be proud.

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