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Goner 

Never underestimate the power of a good synthesizer. What once was the province of '80s hairspray bands and quirk-pop acts has become the Stratocaster of a whole new gang of flowering musicians. In the case of Raleigh's Goner, the synth is the crux of their sound, replacing amped-up power chords with melodic progressions and, well, slightly less amped-up power chords. Goner will inevitably draw comparisons to early R.E.M. and--mostly due to geographic correlations--Ben Folds. Dollar Movie is a little "Mr. Roboto," a little Weezer (sans guitars) and a whole hell of a lot of fun. Keyboardist Scott Phillips proves a triple threat with nimble keys work, an alluring voice and whip-smart lyrics. For instance, Phillips takes a (perceived) shot at big money rap/rock hypocrites with the verse, "And now the rage is sponsored/And so's the machine/And so's everything else you cherish in between." There's also a pining verse aimed at those mythical fall evenings of high school football: "So you can't go back to 'South Central Rain'/When every Friday night was Armageddon again/Cold denim and bleachers, corn syrup and cul-de-sacs/Soundtracks in soft focus you can never play back." The band produced this, their debut CD, with former Vanilla Trainwreck singer-guitarist Greg Elkins and managed to lure ex-DB Chris Stamey in for mastering. Good company for a growing act to keep. So if you still nurture a guilty pleasure for the laser-like pitch shifting of a good old-fashioned Korg synth, this Dollar Movie gets two thumbs up.

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