Snowblind is a song cycle of lust, longing, spite, despair, and reluctant hope, with a dash of abject bliss thrown in for good measure. The album undergoes complete sonic disintegration midway through track 6. In track 7 the band bounces back with a shy question. And on they go. Temporary implosions aside, Snowblind will feel warm and familiar to any fan of Erica Smith's 2002 release Friend or Foe--both would be considered singer/songwriter records--but Snowblind is more muscular, with a crystalline, full-band sound. The 99 Cent Dreams (Dann Baker on guitar, Dave Campbell on drums, and Alan Young on bass) push the songs to their outer limits and own every genre they touch. The Merseybeat-influenced "Easy Now," the sparkling bossa nova piece "Tonight," the frenetic New Wave "Where and When," the gentle, psychedelic "Start From Nothing," and the swaying country tune "The World is Full of Pretty Girls," among others, all add up to a soundscape with it's own distinct soul. Snowblind was recorded during a very painful period after Erica's boyfriend passed away suddenly during a blizzard. Ironically, the title track, and the snowy landscapes in the lyrics of many of the songs, already had been in place for months. The wintry imagery of Snowblind is balanced out by other songs that give off considerable heat: an affair begins on a hot summer night in Riverside Park; lovers stand on a city terrace, listening to a crackling thunderstorm in the middle of the night; an impish sweetheart, like a firefly, appears out of nowhere only after the sun goes down. The majority of songs on Snowblind are written by Erica. Two songs, "Where and When" and "Start from Nothing," are penned by Dan Sallitt (of Blow This Nightclub) and Dann Baker (of Love Camp 7), respectively. Two other cover songs offer a peek into the band's love of 1960s sounds: the title track, from the experimental, psychedelic 1969 Judy Henske/Jerry Yester album Farewell Aldebaran, and the beloved, sonorous "Don't Worry Baby" by the Beach Boys. In Snowblind, each of these wildly disparate tunes is unspun and rewound, ramped up and reimagined. Together they taunt convention by existing anywhere near each other on a record. It's all so wrong, and yet so right.
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