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GIANT DRAG (Buy CDs by this artist)
Lemona EP (Wichita) 2005
Hearts and Unicorns (Kickball) 2005

LA duo Giant Drag puts a new spin on shoegazing simply by moving guitarist Annie Hardy’s spitfire vocals out in front of the wall of distortion rather than concealed behind it. Given that Hardy and drummer/keyboardist Micah Calabrese churn out some amazingly memorable pop tunes, the result is a band with lots of in-your-face personality. Most shoegaze bands conjure up the unsettling sensation of stumbling into someone else’s dreams; Giant Drag conveys the sense of being punched in the head.

Lemona opens with “This Isn’t It,” three minutes of swaggering, staggering pop topped off with Hardy’s vocals, which suggest Hope Sandoval’s no-bullshit sister. Nothing else on Lemona comes close, but it doesn’t really matter. The disc also includes a video for “This Isn’t It.”

The full-length Hearts and Unicorns doesn’t contain any filler (except for the hidden track, a time- wasting jumble of found sound and assorted crap, like most hidden tracks), and is one of the most memorable dream-pop albums since the genre went into quasi-hibernation in the mid-'90s. The ridiculously catchy, hook-heavy “Kevin Is Gay” leads things off in grand style, followed by “Cordial Invitation,” which could pass for one of the quieter tracks on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. (The inclusion of “This Isn’t It” renders Lemona superfluous.) The sultry “Yflmd” and the wonderfully named “High Friends in Places” reveal Hardy to have a PJ Harvey side, while the weightless, ethereal “Smashing” wouldn’t sound terribly out of place on a Radiohead disc. More, please.

[Brad Reno]