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click to enlarge Espers -  - Espers II -  - Drag City / Release: May 16 -  - Philadelphia neo-psychedelic folk group Espers plays - ambient music. Not that it's good at low volume at your - New Age dinner party; rather, true to the word's - definition, the sound comes in from all sides, surrounds - and encircles. On their sophomore record, Espers - II, the sextet builds on its impressive take on the - work of late-'60s British folk acts like Fairport - Convention and Donovan; impressive, possibly, in that - the three women and three men are able to make - medieval lyrical references sound sophisticated, dreamy - even. Espers' artwork is all vines and branches, apt - because they rope their obscure wood and string - instruments around their lovely haunted voices, growing - out a vibe that envelops you like hazy smoke. If you play - this at your dinner party, play it loud.  Elliott - Johnston
  • Espers

    Espers II

    Drag City / Release: May 16

    Philadelphia neo-psychedelic folk group Espers plays ambient music. Not that it's good at low volume at your New Age dinner party; rather, true to the word's definition, the sound comes in from all sides, surrounds and encircles. On their sophomore record, Espers II, the sextet builds on its impressive take on the work of late-'60s British folk acts like Fairport Convention and Donovan; impressive, possibly, in that the three women and three men are able to make medieval lyrical references sound sophisticated, dreamy even. Espers' artwork is all vines and branches, apt because they rope their obscure wood and string instruments around their lovely haunted voices, growing out a vibe that envelops you like hazy smoke. If you play this at your dinner party, play it loud. Elliott Johnston

click to enlarge Secret Machines -  - Ten Silver Drops  -  - Reprise -  - The new Secret Machines disc finds the tuneful trio - delicately balancing two musical approaches  melodic - alt-rock and slightly old-school prog-rock leanings - with aplomb. The album begins on two high notes with - "Alone, Jealous and Stoned" and "All at Once (It's Not - Important)," casting the Dallas act  you'd swear it was a - Brit pop export  in Travis-land, with lush harmonies - and sweet melodies. Any aspirations to take the listener - to greater heights is met with the eight-plus-minute jam - "Daddy's in the Doldrums," which possesses driving - beats and chords similar to moments found on Now - Here is Nowhere.  It recalls gasp  post-Peter - Gabriel, pre-sellout Genesis. Indie rock fans open- - minded enough to appreciate a major label artist won't - be disappointed.  John Benson
  • Secret Machines

    Ten Silver Drops

    Reprise

    The new Secret Machines disc finds the tuneful trio delicately balancing two musical approaches melodic alt-rock and slightly old-school prog-rock leanings with aplomb. The album begins on two high notes with "Alone, Jealous and Stoned" and "All at Once (It's Not Important)," casting the Dallas act you'd swear it was a Brit pop export in Travis-land, with lush harmonies and sweet melodies. Any aspirations to take the listener to greater heights is met with the eight-plus-minute jam "Daddy's in the Doldrums," which possesses driving beats and chords similar to moments found on Now Here is Nowhere. It recalls gasp post-Peter Gabriel, pre-sellout Genesis. Indie rock fans open- minded enough to appreciate a major label artist won't be disappointed. John Benson

click to enlarge The Fiery Furnaces -  - Bitter Tea  -  - Fat Possum -  - While always on the eclectic side of the indie rock - spectrum, The Fiery Furnaces reached new heights of - wackiness with Rehearsing My Choir, a concept - album that found Eleanor Friedberger trading lines with - her 83-year-old grandmother. With Bitter Tea, - the siblings are slightly more grounded, but have not - retreated to the more accessible, guitar-friendly sound - on earlier releases. This album mimics their live show, - moving from piano riff to riff and odd sound to sound - with little respect for transition, as if twisting your radio - dial from station to station. But the result is engaging, - stimulating and sometimes danceable, with just enough - song structure and hooks to snag you, even if the - siblings are talking backwards to each other.  - Josh Johnson
  • The Fiery Furnaces

    Bitter Tea

    Fat Possum

    While always on the eclectic side of the indie rock spectrum, The Fiery Furnaces reached new heights of wackiness with Rehearsing My Choir, a concept album that found Eleanor Friedberger trading lines with her 83-year-old grandmother. With Bitter Tea, the siblings are slightly more grounded, but have not retreated to the more accessible, guitar-friendly sound on earlier releases. This album mimics their live show, moving from piano riff to riff and odd sound to sound with little respect for transition, as if twisting your radio dial from station to station. But the result is engaging, stimulating and sometimes danceable, with just enough song structure and hooks to snag you, even if the siblings are talking backwards to each other. Josh Johnson

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