The Pica Beats: Beating Back the Claws of the Cold 

I am a fan of the sitar. I hold the opinion that contemporary music would improve with more influence from Ravi Shankar and George Harrison in his Hare Krishna days. So when I come across a band I've never heard of (The Pica Beats) on a label I don't recognize (Hardly Art) and find that distinctive Eastern drone crafted into the music's core, I'm pleasantly surprised. Last year, some folks from Seattle indie label Sub Pop launched Hardly Art, the label behind Arthur and Wu. Hardly Art has a new handful of freshly signed bands, all set to become recognizable names in the Northwest indie scene.

Sitar aside, the Pica Beats are one such band. Like Sub Pop, Hardly Art signs artists with a contemporary indie sound, a sound that Sub Pop helped establish through bands like Death Cab For Cutie. However, Hardly Art seems to offer more allowance for different musical directions. The usual acoustic guitar, modest keyboards and the occasional horns are there, but there are also lyrics about Ra the Egyptian Sun God, and, of course, the sitar.

Wavering between wistful and melancholy, Beating Back the Claws has a distinctively older ambience, a vibe befitting a Rubber Soul-era Beatles recording or a Satyajit Ray film. The Pica Beats' glory is in their approach toward this bygone zeitgeist: offering a distinct homage to '60s pop without trying to be '60s pop.

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