Austin, TX.'s Tele Novella provides an engaging, modernized take on '60s uptown girl groups and baroque pop. On the quartet's debut Lolipop Records EP "Cosmic Dial Tone," the songs, performance and production all coalesce into a decidedly non-retro pop product.
Though singer Natalie Ribbons, with her deep, smoky voice and ultra clear phrasing, is certainly well versed in the tradition of the chanteuse, what really sets Tele Novella apart from both the originators of this style and its revivalists, from the Ramones to the Jesus and Mary Chain and Mazzy Star, is the complete absence of ironic detachment, innocence reconfigured into violent fantasies or a full retreat into narcotic dreaminess. Tele Novella is simple without being plain, and while they might not be The Crystals, they are clear and direct.
All six tracks have a consistency of quality that makes "Cosmic Dial Tone" a coherent listen and a fully realized whole where each song sounds like a different branch of the same tree. And that tree appears to be remarkably fruitful: "Umbrella at the Station" opens the EP with a monolithic pulse and haunting melody and "Trouble in Paradise" transcends a somewhat predictable title by exceeding its literal interpretation with a dark swing and swagger.
Elsewhere, "Coat Tail Rider" is an elegant kiss off made of clever lyrical scraps and sarcastically tremolo suspense movie guitar. When Ribbons wraps her voice around the line "easy come, easy go, you have nothing to show for it," elongating her vowels like no singer since Morrissey, it's clear that Ribbons and Tele Novella have a dark and lovely future ahead of them.