Following a new album of spaced-out orchestral pop called Built on Squares, the Starlight Mints are fresh from touring the country -- not Phoenix, though, like too many other good bands -- with fellow Norman, Oklahoma, residents the Flaming Lips.
Since its 2000 debut The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of, the band has withered down to three full-time members, with vocalist and former principal songwriter Allan Vest now sharing the credit equally with husband-and-wife Mints Andy and Marian Nunez.
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If recent through-the-grapevine reports are true, the live show features the trio plus two auxiliary members and two computers. More than three people and a little technology, however, would be needed to try to fully re-create the sound on Squares, an aural travelogue that takes place partly in the cosmos and partly on a funky road trip, name-checking locations on the way. The Mints have a clean, full sound, melding pop exotica and psychedelic flourishes, accented by well-placed bits of noise. Vest's nasally voice (think of Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel for comparison) narrates the psychobabble tales, while trumpets, vibraphones and cello make for a crisp dip into mystical realism.