Hello to all. The Contestants are pleased to introduce, well, themselves. For those who love the melodic and energetic, the harmonic and kinetic, you have found the perfect sphere for your ears to orbit. The Contestants is a band that loves what they do. It is a band of friends and of music fans. As influences go, the members hold varied though not incongruous ideals. The Beatles are there, of course, as are Broken Social Scene, Matthew Sweet, Pinback, XTC, a little Big Star, New Pornographers, Sloan, The Cure, and any number of indie-rock bands that made their way in the mid to late 90's. While hook filled guitar pop is certainly the guiding principal, a decidedly epic quality exists in their sound and arrangements. The Contestants hail from the mythical musical land of Portland, Oregon and came into being over the course of several years and several lineup changes. After recording an album and 2 EPs under the name The Empty Set, some members left as others were added. The new lineup -- Josh Kirby, Darin Fabrick, John Meyer, L.S. Walker and Jean-Paul Ramos -- began recording as The Contestants in the winter of 2006. It was an exciting time for the band, both creatively and collaboratively. No idea or whim was held back. No filters. No timetables. In the end, what came out of those nearly two years of work and play was a streamlined quartet (L.S. Walker exited during mixing), a collection of 12 songs, and a new identity as The Contestants. Enjoy. ____________________________________________________________ While the Empty Set was never a band to restrain itself when it came to pop choruses, the new project to rise from their ashes, the Contestants, have refined their skills to an entirely new level. On their brand-new long-player, A Fitting Retreat (which is released tonight), the quintet's harmonies are layered thick, the tempo is loose, and the influence is set squarely on Alex Chilton. It's a bit too mature to fall under the category of bubblegum pop (more Big Star, less Box Tops). Instead, it's classic power pop with mammoth hooks, sans the guilt of listening to something so indulgent. --The Portland Mercury ____________________________________________________________.