Side By Side: Morning
Side By Side

Listeners longing for new L'altra material (the Chicago duo's currently working on a new album) can tide themselves over until its appearance with Side By Side's Morning, which offers a similarly-styled collection of dreamy electro-balladry (in fact, “After All” and “Hesitation” could both almost pass for lost tracks from a L'altra session). The group is comprised of brothers Michael and Joseph Pepe (helped out by vocalists Allison Modafferi, Gary Forsyth, and, on two songs, Brad Davis) who unabashedly wear their hearts on their sleeves in eleven songs. They aren't unappealing and instrumentally the arrangements for tremolo guitars, piano, drum machines, and murmured vocals aren't off-putting either. The material's single weakness—and one easily rectified—is the drum programming which is generally static, and dated too for that matter (with its Jane Siberry-styled vocalizing and clunky drum accompaniment, “Disappear” is more rooted in the ‘80s than today). The brothers would be wise to bring a real drummer on board the next time around as doing so will humanize Side By Side's heartfelt music even more. On the vocal front, Modafferi's fine even if she's no Lindsay Anderson. Having said that, the detail is less damning than it might appear because Side By Side's music is not centered upon lead vocals so much as overall atmosphere, and on that front there's little in the group's sound with which to find fault (the drumming the exception). The duo recommends that one “(t)urn the lights down, put on some headphones, close your eyes, turn it up loud, and think of someone or something you love...something beautiful” and the sentiment largely captures the mood the brothers create throughout the disc's forty-two minutes. All told, Side By Side's pretty romantic pop goes down about as easily as your favourite Savage Garden or Depeche Mode ballad.

March 2009