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Blonde Redhead

Essential: "23"

As its moniker suggests, Blonde Redhead has made a career of changing musical colors, adding and subtracting tones and textures, while somehow always staying in fashion. From the moment Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley first signed the New York trio to his Smells Like label and produced its self-titled debut more than a decade ago, the band has explored everything from downtown noise to synth-swept soundscapes to UK-style shoegaze bliss. "23" furthers the group's recent fascination with a sleeker presentation that favors sheen over squall. In fact, listeners who didn't hear 2004's luxurious "Misery is a Butterfly" might not recognize the one-time purveyors of art-house dissonance on tracks such as the '80s-era "Silently" (among the poppiest confections the band has ever recorded) or "The Dress," where singer-guitarist Kazu Makino, double-tracked for maximum ethereal atmosphere, channels the Cocteau Twins. Odder still might be the Sgt. Peppery orchestral ornamentation that dresses "SW," gorgeously sung by guitarist Amedeo Pace as drummer/twin brother Simone Pace's percussive groove firmly grounds the tune in the present. "Heroine" is airy, Lush-like electro-pop that disintegrates into fragments of keyboard blips and bleeps before the properties reconstitute into the spare, skittering "Top Ranking." Like the album itself, the individual pieces make for a sumptuous whole.

[Jonathan Perry]

Blonde Redhead plays at Paradise Rock Club on May 9.