CD Review of No One Will Know by Bella
Recommended if you like
Plastic Operator, New Pornographers, Pulsars
Mint Records
No One Will Know

Reviewed by Jason Thompson


his is it, I believe. The only five-star review I’ve given to an album this year. This is Vancouver band Bella and their excellent album No One Will Know. This is 12 tracks of synth pop perfection that looks back the New Wave of the early ‘80s, but doesn’t skullfuck it to death and make the band seem like nothing more than another nostalgia trip for those who can’t get over “(Keep Feeling) Fascination” by the Human League. There’s too much of that retro bullshit these days, and it’s actually quite refreshing to hear a band successfully incorporate those old sounds and make them sound new again -- reminding the listener of all the things they liked from the songs from way back when without kowtowing to predictable and obvious gimmickry.

The band features Cameron Fraser, Tiffany Garrett Sotomayor, and Charla McCutcheon. A power trio unleashing synth pop impeccably produced by Dave Carswell (New Pornographers), who would definitely know a thing or three about making oddball pop perfectly commercial and worthwhile. Hit the play button and soak in the opening track “Give It a Night” and hear where bands like the Rentals ultimately failed because they put the kitsch before the cart. You can listen to this stuff over and over without ever quite putting your finger on just what it reminds you of, which is a good thing because it proves that Bella have a solid chunk of originality to inject into the old style. The drum patterns are simple and locked in; the guitars seamlessly integrate with the beats and make the song chug effortlessly. Then there are those synths and beautiful voices that don’t try to do any more than what need to be done. “Less is more” is not easy to pull off. Bella does so enthusiastically and flawlessly.

“Stay Here” has ringing guitars and a synth line that would make Gary Numan weep with envy. It’s what the Bangles or Go-Go’s would have been had they got in bed with a keyboard and were actually good for than one or two songs. The female voices mix together at the right moments, bringing to mind a space age ABBA without the over-the-top theatricality (which is not to take away from that group, as they are swell themselves). Yet it’s “Don’t Sleep Alone” that is the masterpiece of the album, a brilliant piece of pop that will instantly win you over and make you need to hear it all over again immediately.

Sotomayor and McCutcheon handle most of the lead vocals, but Fraser takes some turns as well, as on “Ocean or a Lakeshore,” which boasts a more indie modern rock sound, which the band pulls off just as excitingly as the older-infused stuff. And certainly the ladies’ backing vocals on this track will send you into heaven as well. Who could complain?

Indeed, songs such as the warm and drowsy “Settle Down” and the breezy “For the Last Time” show how well this band can mix up the styles without making it seem the least bit jarring. Bella know what they’re doing and when the variations arrive, they win you over even more. Although there’s no denying that “Go” is a nice little cooker of a bubbling dance track, with vocoder and nifty disco beats. And if anyone can honestly not get caught up in the sheer energy of “Camelot” with its pure pop perfection, then they need to just never listen to music again.

Yes, so if there’s an album you need to buy this year, make No One Will Know that album. Bella is one of those amazing groups that should be able to please truckloads of people who just enjoy great catchy pop and remember what it was like when the whole music scene wasn’t such a dried-out wasteland. There may be hope yet. This band deserves every cent and every fan they earn. Don’t let ‘em just be an under the radar hit. This stuff is wonderful.

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