Gingerbread Dog is the debut release on HHBTM for this Florida trio. Baby Calendar has released before, but it was all DIY. And while I have yet to crack the past album, Fifteen Year Old Sneakers, I must say that what I’ve heard on Gingerbread Dog is on the verge of brilliance.
To quote their biography, Baby Calendar is “not completely pop or twee, not completely punk or rock.” Instead, they contain all four elements.
At the most elementary level, Baby Calendar is a cute trio that creates a classic male/female fronted indie-pop sound. There are blatant similarities to the married couple that makes up Mates of State, primarily found in the vocal and lyrical styling of Tom Gorrio and Jackie Biver. While it is less apparent in the instrumentation of Gingerbread Dog, the vocal similarities are sometimes overwhelming.
“Symbiosis” is an acoustic track that highlights the dual vocals as Gorrio and Biver switch back and forth on lead before joining in harmony. The cuteness factor is also found in track titles like “Lemon Drops”, “Skibbledeebee”, and “Lunchbox”, and many of Baby Calendar’s songs surround youthful topics as well, such as all those times we pretended to be ninjas as kids in “The Way of the Samurai”. (I know I sure did! Didn’t you?)
A further look will uncover a power pop and pop-punk sound that has infiltrated the rudimentary indie-pop Baby Calendar has created, a sound captured by groups like Racetrack, but broadened by the dual male/female vocals. Baby Calendar grasps the pop-punk influences in 90s groups like Braid and early Cursive. This sound is captured especially well in the guitar work on their hit “Traffic In The Tropics”.
Again, the primary difference between Baby Calender and the influences of Braid and Cursive is the cuteness factor—how the hand claps and YAY shouts match the clever guitar riffs and triplet vocals—when the duo sings in-ter-vals at the end of each chorus in “Traffic In The Tropics”. “Lemon Snaps” defies the cuteness factor, however, to become one of the hardest-hitting songs on Gingerbread Dog. Here the group enters sounding more like Racetrack than the other groups listed above, expertly combining indie-pop and power-pop.
One unique vocal aspect is not only how nasally Gorrio’s vocals come out, but how well he pulls them off. There’s a trace of early Acid House Kings here, meshing well with Biver’s edgy but romantic voice. This is apparent from the earliest moments—one listen to “Zipped Up” and you can hear how well Gorrio and Biver’s voices blend together, and also how there are hints of Mates of States in their vocal styling. The group even alters time to heighten this effect. A similar style is used in the intro of “Labratories”, though the chorus adds keyboards not heard in the song’s two predecessors, a sound that hints of an old favorite of mine: The Anniversary.
You know an album is good when it makes you want to write a novel—I could continue writing about this group and this album, but I have neither the time nor the… well, time. While I’m not sure this would be the album I’d choose for my addition to the classic 33 and 1/3 book series (one of these days I’d love to contribute), it’s definitely one to consider in greater depth. And that means go buy the album!
This review was originally published December 20, 2006 on the old version of FensePost.
Download: “Lemon Snaps” by Baby Calendar
Happy Happy Birthday To Me [CD, 2006]
1. Zipped Up
2. Traffic In The Tropics
4. Lemon Snaps
5. Near The Shore
8. Cubicles, No Window
9. The Way Of The Samurai
11. Zipped Down