Obi Best
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Obi Best

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Sweet Vocals, crystalline piano, keyboards and guitars over puzzle-like signatures -- Obi Best is about that. This new-ish Eastside quartet a sort of aesthetic pop refinement that's lacking in this dirt-or-diamonds metropolis. - LA Alternative - LA Alternative


We've been anxious to hook up with Obi Best since stumbling across one of their shows last year. They're just a fantastic band that will remind you of all the things you love about Swede pop, 60's grooves, and Minty Fresh records. Plus their video for "Nothing Can Come Between Us" just kills. -- LA Underground - LA Underground


Obi Best is a Los Angeles-area band featuring the ethereal voice of Alex Lilly. In a crowded field of sometimes-electronic chanteuse/auteurs (see also Bjork, Feist, Cibelle, Colleen, Psapp, etc), Lilly's subversive songwriting, patient composition and impressive production announce an artist to be reckoned with. -Tofu Hut - Tofu Hut


Obi Best's first attempt is ten songs of refreshing, keyboard-driven pop, and is largely buoyed by the strength of Lilly's voice. Reminiscent of Feist, her voice is both confident and quirky, which works wonderfully when paired with the punchy lyrics. - NPR


Frontwoman Alex Lilly (backup singer of another LA band, The Bird And The Bee) seemed to be calling most of the shots last night; it felt like this was her project, and her fellow musicians were just sort of along for the ride. She performed the first song solo and joked about kicking the other members out of the band. Joking aside, part of the charm of Obi Best’s sound would certainly be lost without Lilly’s bandmates. The instrumentation and vocal harmonies fill out the music and create simply beautiful songs. - CMJ


You’d think pop writers would be out of new hooks and topics to write about by now. Mostly you’d be right, but Alex Lilly will have none of that. As the brains behind the Los Angeles-based ensemble Obi Best, Lilly tends to a pop topiary garden, pruning melodies, watering the arrangements and planting new lyrical ideas ‘til each song radiates its own particular quirkiness.

Obi Best shares an affection for analog synths and '60s chanteusery with the Bird and the Bee, with whom Lilly tours as a backup singer, and yet the band’s digital release, Capades, brings its Bacharach-isms and girl-groupiness past the sugary homage stage. The album is clever without resorting to irony, smart without a hint of pretension, and swooningly pretty in the least obvious of ways.

Capades does wonders with the ol’ box of chocolates approach. There are fresh takes on age-old themes of love and jealousy and nostalgia here, with music and lyrics working together to get across Lilly’s imagery. She sings “Love is blind and hallucinates too/ Blooming baby faces circle around you” in “Who Loves You Now,” and we feel her ambivalence in the angelic keyboard glosses and lethargic beat that surround her.

Elsewhere, Capades has the specificity of a showtune: “It’s Because of People Like You” is all about finding a pissy note on your car, while “Origami” imagines a pair of trans-Pacific lovers that can only communicate via paper cranes and frogs. Lilly’s bell-clear alto wraps around girlish desperation and womanly resolve like it’s all part of the same life experience.

Obi Best’s songs are tautly constructed enough to stand on their own -- good luck removing “Nothing Can Come Between Us” and “Swedish Boy” from shower-singing rotation -- but the pianos, guitars, synths and strings that cushion Capades vivify Obi Best’s singular sound world and become just as important as Lilly’s inventive melodies. On the mesmerizing “Blooms Like Flowers,” Lilly embroiders poetic insight (“For me, life is just math and we’re figures on a map…we try to walk tall/ But for you, time blooms like flowers/ Life moves beyond the hours”) into a song of breathtaking sophistication.

Even if she didn’t mean it this way, Lilly is the “you” in that lyric, a songwriter and musical conceptualist who can convey everyday experiences in dimensions of sound and color apparent to nobody but her. On Capades, she’s sitting cross-legged in a polka-dot dress at the center of a lush forest of imagination, singing for the squirrels and canaries that alight on her outstretched arms. For 41 minutes, we get to see things the way she does. - Prefix Magazine


Alex Lilly, previously best known for her work as a backup singer for retro-pop group The Bird and the Bee recently released her debut album Capades under the moniker Obi Best on Social Science Recordings.
Lilly handles much of the vocals, guitar and keys and is rounded out by band mates Bram Inscore and John Wood on synth and drummer Barbara Gruska. Guest back-up vocalists include Lisa Tremain of Readers and Kim Talon of Eagle and Talon. The album is beautifully melodic with sweet but strong vocals and lovely harmonies.
Preview “Nothing Can Come Between Us”

First track and current single “Nothing Can Come Between Us” hosts a little bit of funk over a pretty piano melody that keeps it interesting rather than driving it over the top. Happy and airy piano melodies are complimented by a warped synth on tunes like “It’s Because of People Like You” and “Bloom Like Flowers.” Oriental effects take over on both “Origami” and “Swedish Boy” while a saw played by Irina Bjorkland steals the spotlight on “Within These Forest Walls.”

The disc ends strong with my favorite song “Days of Decadence,” a lush song that lives up to its title. “Days of Decadence” has a 50s doo wop feel and beat with strong instrumentals and a saturated melody that matches Lilly’s longing for the old days [of decadence] as she sings, “Days don’t need to mind me, / I’ll just linger back instead. / This is not my time… / I wish I could rewind and find those dusty days waiting there for me.”
Capades, available now digitally, conjures up days of old with a beautiful vintage girl pop wondefully modernized by Obi Best. Pick up a copy today.
- popwreckoning.com


Obi Best, aka Alex Lilly, doesn't have such lyrical issues. Ms. Lilly, who spends most of her time as the backing vocalist for the Bird and the Bee, showcases a witty preciousness on "Capades," her debut as Obi Best, which is released digitally today (before a physical release in the coming months). "Capades" is a gem of an off-kilter, bubble-gum, electro-pop album. As bubbly as Ladytron and as languid as CocoRosie, Ms. Lilly favors dreamy electronic backdrops for her soaring vocals, lacing the gentle wash of music with ribbons of fleeting noises, squishy beats, and other disorienting touches. The music is never alienating, but sometimes it sounds only slightly skewed from the unrelentingly saccharine. The result is something akin to a Japanese game show version of Willy Wonka's wonderland.

Over this sugary goodness, Ms. Lilly runs through a carnival of love and other florid emotions. But as in her music, something is slightly amiss in the gooey romanticism. Album opener "Nothing Can Come Between Us" rides a blithely sing-song piano line, à la Burt Bacharach, as Ms. Lilly offers reasons why she and her lover should stay together: "You look good in makeup, me shaving cream / I don't think we should break up." As Ms. Lilly's narrator continues to reassure her partner that "nothing can come between us," what was overly cute becomes slightly too intense, as if we're listening in on the giddiest stalker ever.

Throughout "Capades," Ms. Lilly drops such lyrical curveballs into her starry-eyed musical formula, and they continue to be as deliciously surprising. "Who Loves You Now" moves at the pace of an astronaut running on the moon, with Ms. Lilly singing at an appropriately drifting pace about love's consistency, before admitting, "I know there will be times to run / like a bird with its head cut off." It's not meant to be shocking — and, somehow, this remark doesn't spoil the song's overwhelmingly blissful mood — but it's enough of a departure from the cloying sweetness surrounding it to temper the song's more well-trodden emotions.

Even when a song feels as if it may have been beamed in from outer space — such as the planetary beatscape of "Green and White Stripes" — Ms. Lilly can transform it into something approaching a haunted lullaby. High keyboard tones vacillate over a softly rising and falling beat as Ms. Lilly sings a string of "la la las" that feels a little too reminiscent of the theme song to "Rosemary's Baby." Likewise, her lyrics orbit reason without quite getting there: "Truth, it brings no consequence, so you might as well stop making sense."

Lines such as this may approach gibberish, but overall, Ms. Lilly successfully explores the mutability of meaning in a pop song. Just as a swell of strings or a low synthesizer rumble indicates how a moviegoer should react, certain sounds and moods telegraph emotions in pop music. Ms. Lilly has embraced those leitmotifs as Obi Best, only to turn them on their head. She adroitly makes the cliché feel novel and the weird feel inviting, all inside a genre — bubble-gum pop — that has rarely tried to be anything but a diversion. - NYSUN.COM


Catch the Buzz: Obi Best
Alex Lilly, backup singer for the Bird and the Bee, busts out with her own project, Obi Best.

Who? While Alex Lilly's sweet, girl-next-door vocals may have once backed fellow L.A. residents and pop-devouts the Bird and the Bee, her pipes take center stage for solo project Obi Best. And Capades, Lilly's debut album under the moniker, validates her step into the limelight. Under a sprightly, whimsical layer-cake of pianos, synths, and budget drum-machine skitters (provided by a slew of like-minded pals), Lilly's work takes on a circus-esque, twirling quality with its animated, bubbly instrumentation and varied lyrical topics, from lovers to gardens, and beyond. And tracks like the slower, twinkling ballad "Green and White Stripes" and the Stereolab-esque "Blooms Like Flowers" show Lilly's knack for both songwriting and setting an ethereal soundscape.

Their latest: Obi Best's debut album, Capades, arrives digitally Aug. 25 via Social Science Recordings.

BY WILLIAM GOODMAN 08.07.08 10:02 AM
- Spin Magazine


Discography

Obi Best - Capades (digital release Aug 25, 2008/ street date Feb 24th 2009)

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Bio

Alex Lilly, song scientist and frontwoman for creative pop outfit Obi Best, has come to realize that her first album "Capades" is in fact a concept album – not a proper concept album based on a book or the result of a dare or written at a remote cabin in the woods. Rather it's a colorful smorgasbord of songs, recorded mostly in home studios around Los Angeles, taking their aesthetic cues from a quote she misunderstood, likening Chopin's Mazurkas to "guns buried in flowers.”

Lilly, at the time a junior in college, translated this romantic image into the idea of daring music that tricks the listener into believing it's "easy" and accessible. Since then it’s been brought to her attention that this was in fact a reference to a hidden agenda championing Polish Nationalism. But it is her original misconstrued interpretation that is the philosophy humming underneath "Capades,” a debut that is musically adventurous but also melodious, catchy, and emotionally resonant.
 
After graduating with a degree in composition, Lilly moved to L.A. to pursue writing music for films. Inspired by the inventiveness of a collective of local bands and musicians, she shifted her focus to songwriting and experimenting with different musical configurations for her band Colorforms. Soon she got a lucky break – a phone call from her musical crush Inara George with an invitation to join her new project, The Bird and the Bee. Lilly has since played with a diverse array of musicians including Rilo Kiley, Petra Haden, Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, Juliette Commagere, and Mandy Moore.
 
"Capades" was released in 2009 on indie label Social Science. The album runs a gamut of styles, both lyrically and musically and incorporates everything from vibraphone to saw to synths to French Horns to create a unique cinematic quality for each song.
 
Only months before the release, the ideal band configuration finally solidified: Barbara Gruska on drums (Jenny Lewis, Benji Hughes), Wendy Wang on bass (Priscilla Ahn) and Bram Inscore (Beck, Charlotte Gainsbourg) and Aaron Arntz (Zappa Plays Zappa) manning the analog synthesizers. Lilly renamed the band Obi Best – a play on the Japanese word "obi" to create the juvenile, almost anti-punk phrase "oh, be best!”
 
With the release and national tour, Obi Best has earned stellar reviews, igniting comparisons to artists as divergent as XTC, Prefab Sprout, The Cardigans, and Todd Rundgren. But this self-classified "fancy pop" band has created a unique live sound with sonic textures that see-saw between thoughtful sophistication and noisiness.  And the lyrical curveballs, off-kilter progressions, melodic leaps and shimmering three part harmonies lend a dreamy hand to the whole affair.