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Jangly Pop for the Left Side of the Brain

The label "art rock" means a lot of things, but thanks to the music of the '70s, few of them are good. Consequently, when fans refer to the innovative San Antonio band Buttercup, they often avoid using words like "smart" and "sophisticated," lest people get the wrong idea. But, really, there's no getting around it: Buttercup is out to tickle the left side of listeners' brains.

The group grew out of singer/guitarist Erik Sanden's "Dial-a-Song" project: a telephone line, (210) PET-ABLE, launched in 1999 to showcase a new song every week. Sanden's ongoing songwriting experiment generated enough good material for nearly a hundred releasable tracks, some of which appear on the new album Hot Love.

Even apart from the story behind the music, the songs on Hot Love -- and the title track in particular -- stand on their own as eccentric pop gems. With a '60s-style AM-radio beat and Sanden's airy delivery, the track conjures an alternate universe where Ray Davies and David Byrne collaborate on jangly pop songs with unexpected twists in the shade of the Alamo.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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David Brown
David Browne is a contributing editor of Rolling Stone and the author of Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth and Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Spin and other outlets. He is currently at work on Fire and Rain, a book that will track the lives and careers of The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young during the pivotal year of 1970.