Ribbon Stage: Hit with the Most 12” (Perennial Records) New York’s Ribbon Stage literally wear their influences on their sleeve: the cover of Hit with the Most borrows its layout from the Shop Assistants’ 1986 self-titled LP. I love that LP and I would have been fine with a competent homage, but Ribbon Stage delivers much more than that here. Sure, the building blocks are the same as C86 pop—minimalistic, punk-informed rhythms, broad, child-like vocal melodies, harmonies that are sophisticated but not baroque, and a slightly twee aesthetic—but it’s all about the songs, and Ribbon Stage’s approach is decidedly songwriterly, to coin a term. Not only are the songs hooky, but also each one captures a particular tone or texture, from exuberant (“Stone Heart Blue”) to wistful (“Nowhere Fast”) to somber (“Nothing Left”). There are also several memorable lyrical moments, like the chorus for “Hearst:” “my soul is ripped in two… that’s how you like it.” While Ribbon Stage invites the C86 comparisons, US indie rock from the late 80s and early 90s was sipping from the same inspirational well, and moments of Hit with the Most make me think of seminal indie records like Lemonheads’ It’s a Shame About Ray, Guided by Voices’ Alien Lanes, and Sebadoh’s III, with all the songwriting excellence those comparisons imply. Even if, like me, you’re not an indie rocker, give this compact and consistently brilliant LP a try… it has the right combination of punky, underground aesthetics and pop chops to get its hooks in hard, fast, and deep.