The Apples In Stereo: Fun Trick Noisemaker (1995)

The Apples in Stereo were one of the core components of the Elephant 6 collective of indie pop bands that kicked off in the mid 90s.  While Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel each managed a true masterpiece (among other recordings) before disappearing, the Apples have been more workmanlike; they've outlasted their peers, consistently releasing enjoyable collections of songs (if no cohesive thematic opus like Dusk at Cubist Castle or In The Aeroplane Over The Sea).  

The Apples are certainly the most straightforwardly pop of all these bands, merging Beatles and Beach Boys-inspired retro pop with psychedelia, bubblegum, and sunshine pop.  Later albums added more polish, and I probably spend more time with 1997's Tone Soul Revolution and 2000's Discovery of a World Inside the Moone; but their 1995 debut, while raw and somewhat lo-fi, is packed with joyous hooks and remains thoroughly entertaining.

It kicks off with the rousing "Tidal Wave," a noisy little gem with frontman Robert Schneider playing around with the recording studio; "High Tide," "Glowworm," "Lucky Charm" and "Dots 1-2-3" are all perky bits of bubblegum.  There are a few spots where the songs delve into some studio experimentation and drag a bit, but for the most part it's pretty light and moves at a nice clip.

While the band is Schneider's baby, they have a secret weapon in drummer Hilary Sidney, whose girlish backing vocals really aid a number of tunes; and she wows with lead vox in "Winter Must Be Cold."  (Sidley's 1-2 vocal leads per album have frequently been highlights; alas, she and Schneider later divorced and she's noticeably absent from the band's most recent work, though she has a few side projects of her own, including the fine High Water Marks.)

Pretty much all of the band's albums have a handful of stand-out tracks, so you can't go wrong, but Noisemaker, while rough around the edges, has a low key charm that's particularly infectious.

Here's the "Tidal Wave" video:
 ...and a video for "Glowworm"