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Little Kingdom 

CD by Citay

Dead Oceans/Important Records

Originally spawned as a studio-only project by Ezra Feinberg and Tim Green of the Fucking Champs, Citay quickly garnered critical acclaim within independent music circles with their 2006 self-titled debut, a release well noted for its warm and vibrant tones, lush harmonies and discerning compositions. It is a formula that the band, which currently numbers over a half a dozen members, has expanded in its latest effort, Little Kingdom,an album marked by a maturity and melodic complexity that promotes their musical vision not as a mere product, but more as an alluring and magical destination.

Citay is clearly influenced by the worlds of '60s and '70s rock, folk and psychedelic music, but the band does not necessarily wear the names of such influences on its sleeve. This is not to say that it is impossible to point at specific bands in an attempt to describe Citay's sound, but such attachments here need to be considered with caution, for Feinberg and company have a tendency to isolate an artist's lesser known attributes and develop them to suit their own needs. Little Kingdom certainly does not sound like a Pink Floyd record, but the band does incorporate choral and keyboard arrangements reminiscent of Floyd's Meddle era. No one is going to think that Citay has recruited a successor to Jimmy Page, but it is worth noting that the disc's acoustic strummings are rooted in the more obscure and uncelebrated tracks of Led Zeppelin's III.

It is the result of all of this calculated maneuvering that separates Citay from their pop-psych contemporaries and speaks strongly to the astuteness of their songwriting. And to the band's credit, when they do decide to offer clear homage to their heroes of yesteryear, it tends to be directed at artists often overlooked by others, such as the psych-folk pioneers The Incredible String Band and progressive music guru Mike Oldfield.

Listening to Citay is an ethereal experience, to say the least. And while crisp production contributes greatly to the band's aesthetics, it is the keen attention paid to instrumentation and musicianship that allows Feinberg and company to deliver their vision to the listener. The swirling mass of acoustic, electric and twelve-string guitars, mandolin, flute, electric piano and moog synthesizer blends to create a shimmering ambiance that brings daydreams to life.

In an effort to intensify the listening experience, the band combines sharp major chord progressions with dual guitar leads that sail to incredible highs. From the gentle unwrapping of "First Fantasy" to the final stirrings of "Moonburn," Citay soars majestically above their musical landscape, each track exposing deeper layers of self-indulging bliss. Spiraling swathes of keyboard glide freely over subtle rhythms and steer each song's sublime journey to new heights. Even when "Former Child" appears to signal a mournful descent, bittersweet harmonies sweep the listener further along into an elevated dream state. Little Kingdom stands predominantly as an instrumental affair, strategically reserving the use of vocals as enhancements to the band's desired emotional response. The result of such purposeful execution resonates powerfully in songs like "On the Wings," which drifts upon tender choral harmonies that evoke images of the heavenly divine.

Citay's strength truly lies in their ability to gently wrap the listener in a warming embrace and provide an idyllic escape from the harsh realities of life. Their music is the sound of sun-drenched summer afternoons and glittering night skies. Perhaps the best way to appreciate Little Kingdom is to accept it as an invitation and head inside.

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Michael Mannix

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