- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

As tight and polished as the Mosquitos were at Arlington’s Iota Club & Cafe on Friday, the music quickly receded into the background as all eyes wandered toward the antics of Brazilian lead singer Juju Stulbach.

Part garden sprite, part beach nymphet with an impish haircut, she waltzed around barefoot in a floral-printed frock with a cigarette dangling from her lips. Miss Stulbach pranced and pirouetted, saucily swayed her hips and arched her back suggestively to the floor. She bounced around like a girl on her bed, and generally used her classical ballet training (plus two years of modern dance with the Martha Graham troupe) to seductive effect. In a pop world of over-choreographed crotch-grabbing, it was a refreshing display of sexiness without the sexual.

Call it bohemian tropical.

The same could be said for the band’s confection of indie synth-pop with Brazilian flavoring. On a solid and spirited platform laid down by bass player Mike Anufrak and drummer Mark Robohm, the Mosquitos served up something like speed bossa nova filtered through a trippy neo-‘60s sensibility.

Keyboardist Jon Marshall Smith resembled a mad professor at his desk, at times giggling over new revelations. He was, as any synth wizard should be, both percussive and orchestral. Likewise, lead guitarist Chris Root also knows his trade. With an appealing vocal delivery — falling somewhere between Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Kermit the Frog — he ceded the spotlight to his love interest, Miss Stulbach, with understated cool.

Then again, he was suffering through a bad cold. Who’s to say what a good night would sound like? And beyond its many nods to Brazil, who’s to say what the band’s exact influences are?

There were echoes of Jesus and Mary Chain on “Far Away,” XTC on “Louco and Vagalune,” a swinging London groove on “Love Stew,” Pink Floyd on “Mosquito and Flood” — and on the stand-out “Shooting Stars,” a Beach Boy vibe that kicks in with some garage-style Green Day post-punk.

The Mosquitos previously toured with Air, the trendy French synth-pop band, and so far have released two albums, most recently “Sunshine Barato” (Bar/None Records). With talent and charm to spare, they need only to loosen the leash a bit. Too many musical moments that would have welcomed an extension were cut short.

Nonetheless, Miss Stulbach’s voice, though not a big one, was more than breezy and dreamy enough to suit the music —and her dancing body’s own distinctive aura — along with pretty much everyone else in the room.

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