When you listen to dozens of CDs every week, things start to blur together. Music that you might normally find interesting has a whole new standard to live up to when competing with tons of local acts, national releases and obscure selections. But when a disc comes along that compels you to listen to it over and over again, to immerse yourself in the lyrics sheet and stay up late figuring out the chords, well, that’s a truly special thing.Andy Magowan (formerly of June and The Starry Wisdom Band) and his co-conspirators in The Sleepies have created a phenomenal debut with Allegro. Magowan is also a member of Durham’s sonic-minded Malt Swagger. Taking a sabbatical in London to soak up the ambience of Brit-rock, he soon returned to the Bull City to pick up with his old group. After re-establishing himself with the Swagger, Magowan sought to branch out in a more melodic direction and began writing the songs that would eventually become Allegro. Once the band was assembled and had contributed their respective parts to his basic arrangements, Magowan set about recording the album, working with fairly simple equipment set up in a friend’s house.

The result is a collection of tunes that veer from super pop (“I Am Waiting,” the opening track, sends you into orbit instantly) to anthemic (the infectious strum-along “I Got It”), while “Camera Shy” is a Bacharachian ditty that features Magowan’s trademark vibraphone augmenting clean harmonies and finger-snapping rhythms. With literary lyrics (“Into the sky thin/My new friend’s char-broiled skin/I dared your anger and paid through the nose”) and myriad moods, The Sleepies’ debut stands out among the local releases of 2001, not only for its refreshing originality, but also for its ability to draw your hand toward the replay button.