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Azure Ray

We all harbor memories of days long gone which hold an element of romance and leave us pining for simpler times. Sometimes these little trinkets of nostalgia we keep tucked away sneak up and get caught in our throats, making us stop whatever mundane everyday thing we're up to and just revel in a moment that occurred years ago. And often what triggers these rhapsodic moments is something as simple and unexpected as the smell of a passerby's perfume, the color of the sky, or maybe a song.

Listening to Azure Ray, one gets the feeling the duo has intentionally created soundtracks of these memories. There's sadness in their somber acceptance that the moments they sing about are unattainable -- and that they were never was as good as we remember it now. There's a hint of something that could have been grander and a moment of introspection where we realize we're kidding ourselves, but we'll choose to remember it that way anyway.

It's rare to encounter this feeling in music because it's so subtle. If it comes on too strong then it's just being kitschy and cashing in on nostalgia. One other band which does capture this feeling well is Crooked Fingers, and that's probably no coincidence.

Meet Orinda Fink and Maria Taylor, high school chums and partners in crime throughout many a musical endeavor. Their first was Little Red Rocket which they started in high school. Both migrated to Athens, GA for college and kept Little Red Rocket going for a while, releasing albums in '97 (before college) and 2000. When the band finally did split, Fink and Taylor kept working together with Eric Bachmann's Crooked Fingers

After Athens they moved to Omaha, NE, home of Saddle Creek Records. They contributed to a few Bright Eyes records and Now It's Overhead (both Saddle Creek label-mates), also assisting Moby on his track "The Great Escape."

But their work as Azure Ray is their most captivating accomplishment. Their 2001 self-titled debut and their 2002 Burn and Shiver (both on Warm Records) served as an introduction to their meloncholy and graceful music.

The duo then moved to Saddle Creek with the 2002 EP November, followed the next year by Hold On Love. Backing them up on both releases is unofficial third Azure Ray member Eric Bachmann. Arranging strings, playing guitar and piano (and who knows what else), producing, engineering, and doing just about everything but singing, Bachmann lends more than a helping hand to the sound and style of Azure Ray.