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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
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Some Cities

Somewhere in the biggest box of crayons there must be room for a color called Manchester Grey. This hue looks the way the "Factory bands" (as in Tony Wilson's record label) sound: dry guitars, mournful vocals, and offbeat percussion and bass, with liberal touches of digital delay and a certain severity or starkness that make negative space a crucial part of the compositions.

Only a few notable bands that came from Manchester in the years between the post-punk and grunge eras didn't lay at least a test patch of Manchester Grey to see how well it suited them. It could be found in the recordings of Inspiral Carpets, The Smiths, Oasis, Durutti Column, Stone Roses, Joy Division and New Order, and ever onward through the mid-'90s — even Happy Mondays had it on occasion.

All this has changed over the past decade as urban renewal has brightened the traditionally industrial city up. Perhaps the most intriguing example: tearing down the legendary Factory-owned Hacienda Club and replacing it with a pricey apartment block under the Hacienda name. (Thomas Frank, take a bow at this particular conquest of the cool.)

Manchester's Doves are old enough to have kept a crayon or two of Manchester Grey in reserve. The band's origins are legendary by now: Jimi Goodwin and brothers Andy and Jez Williams released a series of well-received dance singles under the name of Sub Sub shortly after the glory days of rave, only to pull the plug after a fire in 1996 destroyed their studio and the master tapes of their in-process second album. A name change made official what was already the case — a movement away from techno in favor of more traditional rock instrumentation. And hence, Phoenix-like, arose Doves.

Doves' debut album, the somewhat antiseptic Lost Souls, lent itself more readily to admiration than genuine appreciation, but in 2002 they returned with a far warmer sound on the anthemic, occasionally blustery The Last Broadcast. And now the band has split the difference via Some Cities, which suggests a progression and a retreat at the same time.

Moving away from what we've come to expect of the band are the title track and "Sky Starts Falling," which sound like garage rock by Doves' standards, the band captured in rare raw form with only the multitracked guitars betraying the studio's presence. The dramatic "Black and White Town" finds me fighting the urge to sing along while making jazz hands, the off-kilter 2/4 beat and piano chord flourishes catching me off guard with their giddiness.

The album's centerpiece, "Walk in Fire," conjures up a wondrous combination of influences, Jez Williams' guitars echoing Scotty Moore's picking on those old Elvis records. The song finds Goodwin and Andy Williams locking into a loping groove on bass and drums, the drummer working overtime to introduce new percussive elements as the song grows, a mid-song New Order-inspired melodica solo eliciting a grin as Goodwin sings his song of redemption. The gorgeous "Snowden" brings out the bombast as an eerie, wintry-sounding theremin winds through the song and reminds us that, as on their earlier albums, Doves are not averse to progging out when the mood strikes, a perception strongly reinforced by "The Storm," which immediately follows.

But this relapse into prog rock is not the sole backslide the band makes here. With the exception of the aforementioned "Sky Starts Falling," the low-energy latter half of the album dissolves into the murk, Goodwin at his gloomiest sailing the band into the gloaming. His voice's natural somberness works well against the band's more buoyant material, but when it's left to wallow in minor-key balladry the sheer quantity of Manchester Grey suffocates and overwhelms tracks such as "Someday Soon" and the echoey album closer "Ambition." Jez Williams' higher-pitched pipes get some airing out on "Shadows of Salford," reminding the Goodwin haters that the band could've made a worse choice in deciding on lead vocalist duties.

It's not too much of a stretch to think of Doves as the last of the Factory bands, despite their never having recorded for the label. But it bears noting that Doves are at their best when they remember that a little Manchester Grey goes a long way, and opt to use a broad spectrum of colors.

by Steve Gozdecki

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