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+ 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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+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
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+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
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+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
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+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
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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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+ 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
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44.1 kHz Archive

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The Earlies
Those Were The Earlies
Secretly Canadian

Available since 2004 in the UK, this album summarizes the spiritually rooted, psychedelically expansive, electronically enhanced orchestral sound of The Earlies, a bi-continental band with members in England and Texas. The cuts here are varied, sharing a certain slow-paced, inward-looking philosophical wonder, but differing in the instruments and tones that express this overall mood. "One of Us Is Dead" ponders the boundaries between this world and the next, moving from reality-grounded verse toward transcendence as the song progresses. It opens with Brandon Carr's cracked, vulnerable voice, observing a T-shirt inscribed with the song title, then turns abstract with sampled preaching, choirs of angels and, eventually, an electro-beat, drum-machine and synthetic-horn interval. The barriers between observation and gnosis are fragile and permeable, and even the simplest questions — e.g. whether one is dead or alive — have cosmic implications. "Wayward Song," adorned with bassoon notes, piano motifs and surging strings, is grounded in chamber sounds, yet it too swoops out of the ordinary in its layered harmonies and consideration of spiritual issues.

The disc alternates between traditional songs and cuts that are predominantly instrumentals. There's a lovely flute weaving in and out of the sleighbell rhythms on "Slow Man's Dream," and "Morning Wonder," with its droning drum machine and organ beat, is a highlight even before the hazy vocals kick in about halfway through the track. "Lows," too, rises from slow guitar tones to form a meditative groove, pulsing with keyboards, punctuated by rim shots, evolving at a measured pace into something wordless and wonderful. These cuts are just as good as the sung ones, and indeed seem to lead to the same sort of calm, transcendental mindset without the prodding of words.

The Earlies have been compared to lots of other bands — the Polyphonic Spree for their choral exuberance, Mercury Rev for their psychedelic adventurousness, Manitoba and Four Tet for their merger of pop and electronic forms. What's impressive is the way they bring all these elements together, the natural world leading seamlessly into a brighter landscape of surreal otherness. In album closer "Dead Birds," we begin with just voice and piano, naked and vulnerable, then rise through eddying swirls of altered drums and choruses, then drift to earth again just as the song closes. There's another world out there, The Earlies seem to say, and you can go there any time you want.

by Jennifer Kelly

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