Grand Duchy
"Petits Fours"

(Cooking Vinyl 2009)Grand Duchy - Petits Fours

Every year around Christmas, the local grocery store rolls out the petits fours -- delicious (and expensive) bite-sized cakes that are difficult to resist. Not completely unlike Grand Duchy's debut album, entitled (surprise, surprise) "Petits Fours." While the album, by husband-wife duo Black Francis and Violet Clark, isn't exactly decadent or self-indulgent, it is relatively brief at only nine tracks. And while it is a new project, longtime fans of Black Francis have no need to worry. The duo tag-team on lead vocal duties and even come together for some interesting results that will make it nearly impossible to not think of The Pixies.

"The Long Song" is simple but effective as the high energy instrumentation and Clark's soft vocals combine, along with a hint of '80s rock that also pops up on "Black Suit." Clark and Black seamlessly combine what could be mistaken for two completely separate songs on "Fort Wayne," with its soft, dreamy melody played over the guitar part and a section spoken in French. The dreamy sound continues with its European flavor intact: this time with additional synths, on "Seeing Stars." Listeners looking for the expected noisy rock tune need look no farther than opening track "Come On Over To My House."

Grandy Duchy's "Petits Fours" is solid as it scratches at the surface but never really digs deep. Clark's understated command is quiet but clear throughout the album. It's easy going, extremely likable and familiar, just like those little cakes that never seem to last long enough. There's so little about Grand Duchy to dislike but, then again, there's nothing overwhelmingly lovable about "Petits Fours" either.

B+

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