Pick Up Coffee, Mocha Chip, Languid Tunes

And curl up with winsome Dutch singer who also provides quirky exclamation marks and roiling drum tracks.

It's hard not to like Elisabeth Esselink (a.k.a. Solex). First of all,

she's Dutch. I don't have much experience with the Dutch. But I have warm,

fuzzy feelings for them. Don't they wear wooden shoes? Don't the men wear

skirts? Or is that Scotland? No matter.

Back to Esselink. So first, she's Dutch. Second, she's cute, in a kind

of post-modern, ironic, "I don't spend hours putting on my face in the

morning for the boys but I still get kind of freaked out if I get a big

zit on my chin" kind of way. I have a crush on her, even though all I've

ever seen are poorly reproduced black and whites of Esselink on the phone,

Esselink in a kitchen, Esselink smiling wanly or gazing enigmatically.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly for our purposes here, Esselink

kicks serious musical butt.

For those of you who somehow missed out on her story, here it is: Esselink

owns a record shop in Amsterdam. One day, she buys an eight-track recorder

at an auction. She throws together some melodies and sets them to samples

collected from said record store, with an emphasis on beat-heavy tracks.

She gets signed to Matador. She becomes a big star, or at least a

cigarettes-and-black-coffee intelligentsia success. Her first record,

Solex vs. the Hitmeister (1998), gets lots of very nice reviews.

Now her second album, Pick Up, is out. No startling departures

here. The song titles are still cute (sometimes, alas, cloyingly so, but

I, for one, will forgive her for this). Several of the songs carry exclamation

points in their titles; one such tune, "The Burglars Are Coming!" (RealAudio

excerpt), is a languid, sensual number that combines the hypnotic

beat-laden approach of Portishead with the playfulness of the Muppets.

And speaking of Portishead, Esselink still sounds like a less histrionic

Beth Gibbons or a less tortured Björk.

Solex is still a one-woman outfit, too, although this time around, Esselink

claims a lot of her samples are field recordings, snippets from "classical

stuff to metal bands." I'm not sure if I buy this; the music, all winsome

theremins and roiling drum tracks and blurting trombones and angular

guitars, still sounds as if it's culled from a Danish woman's record store.

But I might be wrong.

Most of the 14 songs here sound like sketches, and they work better as a

group than on their own. The songs tend to lurch and sway as they jump

from one snippet to another; "That'll Be $22.95" (RealAudio

excerpt) starts with a crunching guitar line before shifting

abruptly to off-tempo electronic burps and oozing keyboards. Other songs,

like "Athens, Oh." (RealAudio

excerpt), are small-scale musical adventures, jumping from minor-key

guitar chords to ringing Devo-esque keyboard blurts.

It's a little hard to understand Esselink's lyrics sometimes — her

press says the lyrics for Pick Up are all short, imaginary

conversations she had on the toilet. I don't usually like thinking of

people — especially people I have crushes on — on the toilet.

But I like this.