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Marah

Our critics' picks in new releases

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"I've found my way from the city of gray/To the sunnier side of the street, boy" proclaims Marah singer/guitarist David Bielanko on "Float Away," the bouncy opening track on the Philadelphia-based band's stunning third album. While temporarily relocating to Britain last year--Float Away ... was recorded at Wales' legendary Rockfield Studios--may not have been much of a step up, climate-wise, from the City of Brotherly Love, the change of scenery seems to have given David and his guitarist/co-songwriter brother Serge a new creative outlook.

Float Away ... will no doubt shock fans of the band's previous efforts. Gone are just about all of the folk and country influences that dominated the band's 1998 debut, Let's Cut The Crap and Hook Up Later On Tonight, and its follow-up, 2000's excellent Kids In Philly. In their place are some of the finest modern pop/rock hooks to come down the pike in quite a spell. How much of Marah's new electric-pop direction can be chalked up to the Bielankos' choice of producer--Owen Morris, the man behind the boards for Oasis' biggest hits--is unclear, but the results are nonetheless impressive.

While it's true that a couple of its tracks would not be out of place on What's The Story Morning Glory?, the album finds the brothers (ably backed by drummer John Kois and bassist Jamie Mahon) finding their own musical voice and taking a few musical chances along the way. The drum machine-driven ballad "Crying On An Airplane" and the funky dance beat of "Shame," while unexpected, succeed in showing the band's willingness to experiment. The album's pop highpoint comes during the soaring chorus of "What 2 Bring," a straight-ahead rocker that stands up to anything in the Cheap Trick or Replacements songbooks.

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