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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
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
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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
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
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American Princes
Less And Less
Yep Roc

A vast improvement over last year's Little Spaces, this second full-length from the Arkansas-based power-pop foursome flits from jittery, electro-shocked rockers to touching ballads to jangly college rock anthems. Sparklehorse's Alan Weatherhead produced the album, capturing what must be really intense live energy with clarity and precision. It's like going to a show, in other words, except you can understand all the lyrics.

The album starts with a bang, the manic, super-charged "Stolen Blues" pitting Collins Kilgore's jittery, hair-pulling vocals against stabs of guitar in a punk-leaning manifesto that breaks, unexpectedly, for lyrical interludes. It's a hint at the band's split personality, all-out rock jams interspersed with quiet bits of melody. "Open Letter," which follows, slows things down and slips a roots-rocking flavor into the mix, its heavy ringing guitar notes and earnest lyrics reminiscent of Centro-Matic. Then it's back to palm-muted urgency with "Simple Life," one of the album's best cuts, as sweet falsetto vocals swirl around a hard-hit rock foundation. "You don't want the simple life," sings Kilgore, amidst a thicket of dueling drums and guitar and bass — not a line you're going to hear in most country-rock songs. But this is not your typical bearded band of Neil Young lovers.

The best songs on the album are a diverse group, ranging from the ELO-shaded, Brit-pop ballad "Annie" to the anarchic distortion-fuzzed sweetness of "This Is the Year," to the Marshall Crenshaw-ish roots bravado of "Copper for Sound." The cuts are united less by style and more by ferocious energy that somehow lets its vulnerability show.

Contrary to its title, Less and Less is more and more from a young band just now finding its signature sound. American Princes could go in any of several directions from here... but let's hope they continue to go in all of them.

by Jennifer Kelly

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