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Tuesday, April 30, 2013


KINGSBURY MANX - Bronze Age (Odessa)

Album number six from the Chapel Hill folk pop group turns up the psychedelia as they evolve into a more upbeat version of their earlier records.

At their best, Kingsbury Manx remind me an American take on Belle and Sebastian. They excel at songs that are firmly rooted in folk, but built up with captivating pop hooks and an eclectic palette of flourishes. They perfectly nailed it on their 4th album, 2005's the Fast Rise and Fall of the South, which made my Top 20 and still gets regular play through my headphones. Kingsbury Manx were never a band to settle into a groove and ride it; they're creatively restless and always evolving.

On much of the new album they pick up the tempo, filling out the sound with psychedlic (and at times proggy) richness and a clearly more rocking delivery. I don't recall their guitars ever being that fuzzy or the swirling keyboards being so full and upfront. They don't reinvent themselves to the degree of being jarring for fans of their earlier work, but like Wilco they are willing to risk stepping into new terrains without losing sight of what they do best. On a casual listen it's a pleasant album filled with memorable hooks and some wonderful pastoral pop. But when you dig in deeper, you can hear how meticulously crafted the whole thing is and how intricate the arrangements are. At times they come close to overthinking or overworking every detail, but never quite cross that line to distract from the top notch songwriting. This is a record that offers new things on repeated listens - the more you live with it the more it delivers subtle surprises.


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