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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ 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
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+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
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+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
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+ 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
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Mercury Rev
The Secret Migration
V2 Music

Though I didn't come to grips with it until, oh, two hours ago, my disappointment with Mercury Rev's previous album, 2001's All Is Dream, stemmed from its subtlety. Having followed Mercury Rev from their debut a decade ago, hooked from that first bit of outer-space noise and acoustic strum of "Chasing a Bee" onwards, even as the group continually altered its lineup and sound (losing a lead singer after the second album, watching bassist Dave Fridmann evolve into one of the hottest producers in all the realm, embracing the opportunity to begin anew after the transitional third album pushed them through to the other side from psychedelic rock to sophisticated pop), I'd previously found the band to be rather immediate, despite the enigmatic air they surrounded themselves with. But …Dream delivered a paucity of panache, too few hooks and too many mystical moments.

So there are a host of reasons why The Secret Migration should be expected to instantly win over a hook-happy, sonics-loving simp like me. Not a single song runs to the five-minute mark, as the lengthy instrumental passages have been replaced by a newfound economy and willing embrace of the standard verse/chorus/verse structure. Largely gone are the strings, theremin, xylophones, bells and other analog tones that have marked Mercury Rev's last few efforts, replaced by layers of more obviously synthesized sounds and Jonathan Donahue and Grasshopper Mackowiak's reinvigorated guitars, which haven't been featured so prominently on a Mercury Rev album since their second album, Boces.

Also new is an abundance of natural imagery; scarce are the songs on which Donahue doesn't dwell upon the passing of the seasons or catalog the flora and the fauna. Yet in stripping things back Mercury Rev suggest that in their case more actually was more, that bereft of the digressions and expansions they're just another band with a nasal, naïve-sounding singer, a way with a hook and a penchant for using the studio as an instrument.

There's got to be a place in the middle for Mercury Rev. They found it on their finest album, 1998's ethereal, dreamlike Deserter's Songs. Here's hoping that the mystical voyagers pull out of the valley and ascend to such heights again.

by Steve Gozdecki

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