Not Groundbreaking, Not Frenzied, But Not Bad

Regia make great sixties-inspired pop that's on just the right side of derivative.

There are plenty of sweet harmonies and Byrds-like melodies on Regia's debut disc, The Art of Navigation. Consisting primarily of ex-Remy Zero drummer Louis Schefano with help from Remy guitarist Shelby Tate, Regia make great sixties-inspired pop that's on just the right side of derivative.

You can't pick any one song and point out the obvious influence — there are no "Strawberry Fields" or "Eight Miles High" — but there is something overwhelmingly retro about The Art of Navigation. This is a record of creeping pleasures, of songs that gain their own identities on successive listens. Schefano has written some really crafty pop songs, and like the Lilys or Apples in Stereo, his muse runs toward the jangly and bittersweet.

Originally intended as demos, Schefano took his tapes to Denver and remixed about half the songs with the Apples' Robert Schneider, one of the ringleaders of the Elephant 6 collective, which also includes the Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control. The stripped-down quality of the recordings — even after Schneider took his turn remixing — allows the songs to shine, the languid ballad "Strange Battle" (RealAudio excerpt) among others.

Schefano also allows his songs breathing room. Nothing's too frenzied or packed-in. It's what lets "Same Time Same Place" (RealAudio excerpt) meander toward its soaring — yet reserved — chorus and what keeps "Nobody's Matador" (RealAudio excerpt) from being a cast-off R.E.M. song. The album remains calm, which means there aren't any real rockers but no overwrought ballads, either, to weigh the record down.

So there's not much groundbreaking about The Art of Navigation. Schefano treads well-traveled territory, but he does it with gusto. He's a savvy traveler, and he navigates Regia ably through a crowded field.