It takes a determined mindset to write and perform convincing time-capsule songs like “Beach Party,” but that’s what New York’s girlsapoppin’ Aquanettas do on Love With the Proper Stranger. Without pushing it as a gimmicky signature, singer/guitarist Deborah Schwartz’s mighty voice is redolent of West Coast ’60s folkrockers like the Mamas and the Papas (and, therefore, the early Bangles as well); drummer Stephanie Seymour’s high harmonies enhance and elevate the effect, as do the acoustic strummings and Jill Richmond’s tradition-packed lead guitar interjections. Pushing Schwartz’s wry lyrics about problems with the opposite sex (“Diplomat,” “Faults,” “15 Men”) and lifestyles of the poor and obscure (“Pictures of Italy,” “Up!”), the quartet turns casual simplicity to its advantage, allowing the vintage spirit to inhabit them as if to the ’60s born.
There’s an equally timeless air to Roadhaüs, but erratic production styles and other problems disconnect the five songs, leaving the EP hobbled and lacking a focal point. The sexy “Run,” a toast to drinking, is a good’un (“I feel like Persephone freed from hell/Now I’d like to be freed from my mind as well”), but the band’s best-ever song, “Mind Full of Worry,” slumps from absolute knockout to thorough disappointment in a bout of dismally sour singing. The group broke up in ’94. Schwartz has been pursuing a solo art-folk career; Richmond formed the Mean Reds and then the covers-loving Mike Hunt Band.