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Two Gallants & r & Two Gallants & r & 4 Stars & r & The opening track, "The Deader," picks up where last year's What the Toll Tells left off. Crammed with stark narratives of disappointment, disgust and despair, these nine tracks create an emotional vision of an America that's more dystopic than triumphant. A pall descends over the entirety, but it is the most wondrous kind, one too easily dismissed as maudlin cynicism.

The sonic landscapes here reinforce the band's terse, mythologizing claims, even though most songs run beyond five minutes. These expansive characteristics are held in check by their familiar two-piece sound: brash electric and acoustic guitars, expanded occasionally with mournful harmonica, condensed with crashing snares and cymbals. Somehow, these melancholic melodies fill space.

The chorus for "Reflections of the Marionette" makes the point: "I don't want to see you fall / I just want to see you fail." Chances are everyone knows the speaker of this dreadful truth -- just check the mirror.


DOWNLOAD: "The Trembling of the Rose"

Robbers on High Street

Grand Animals

2 Stars

The second full-length release from this New York-based indie trio sounds immediately familiar, often with an engaging quality that keeps the tunes coming for another few weeks. However, this same familiarity is slightly disheartening once the listener comes to the following realization: the twelve tracks must be Spoon outtakes. Some, particularly "The Fatalist," might even be Killers outtakes.

But such complaints quickly recede, especially with tracks like "The Ramp." A carefully orchestrated piano dirge, replete with lush strings and restrained vocals, the song highlights singer Ben Troken's range and strength. "Kick 'em in the Shins" scores high on the Spoon-influence scale, as does "Nasty Numbers," but their successes reinforce the complementary nature of indie-rock these days.

If you already own Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, skip Grand Animals. Otherwise, enjoy the lighthearted guitar jangles, tuba and trombone on "Guard at Your Heel." Then try not to smile.


DOWNLOAD: "Guard at Your Heel"
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