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New releases from Mogwai, The Amazing, and Velvet Crush 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Mogwai
  • Mogwai

Mogwai

Atomic

Rock Action/Temporary Residence

File next to: Don Caballero, Sigur Ros

Mogwai's first mainstream soundtrack album, Atomic, is the accompaniment to Mark Cousins' BBC film about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Consequently, instrumental tracks bear titles like "U-235," "Fat Man" and "Little Boy." To depict nuclear horrors without resorting to melodrama, Mogwai has elected to keep themes minimal, with solo piano and a repetitive sound somewhat reminiscent of Philip Glass. While this provides an ideal backdrop to the gravity of the documentary, longtime Mogwai fans might wonder if Cousins or the BBC asked the Glasgow ensemble to temper its experimentalism, or whether Mogwai themselves wanted to keep this simple and austere. Either way, this well-tempered soundtrack proves that the band can provide the sort of ambient background that fits serious documentaries perfectly. — LW

click to enlarge The Amazing
  • The Amazing

The Amazing

Ambulance

Partisan

File next to: The Cure, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine

In a way, The Amazing can be thought of as a side-project: Guitarist Gustav Ejstes is the lead guitarist in Dungen. But this Swedish group has staked out a sound and aesthetic of its own. Unlike Dungen, they sing in English. And theirs is a decidedly more mainstream sound, full of gauzy, deeply textured melodic lines. A softer, more shimmering take on shoegaze, the music on Ambulance has a gray-day melancholy air displayed in its achingly beautiful melodies. The group's fifth release, it shows them continuing to explore appealing sonic territory. Supposedly the music arose from improvisation; if that's so, they have a stunning collective sense of melody. The vocals, intentionally buried in the mix, are there as much for effect as anything else. "Divide" is a standout track on an album that features a multitude of riches. — BK

click to enlarge Velvet Crush
  • Velvet Crush

Velvet Crush

Pre-Teenage Symphony

Omnivore Recordings

File next to: Smithereens, Teenage Fanclub

If Velvet Crush didn't scale the heights of commercial success that some of their contemporaries reached, it was no fault of theirs. All of the ingredients for success were present: muscular playing and arrangements, razor-sharp hooks, great lead and harmony vocals, and solid songwriting. They persevered through seven albums — they're technically still together, though they've been inactive for more than a decade — but their second release, Teenage Symphonies to God, was their masterpiece, a near-perfect synthesis of power pop and the best country-rock (Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers). On Pre-Teenage Symphony, the group unearths 16 demos for that album, plus a live show from the same era featuring power-pop hero Tommy Keene. Both show a less-polished side of the band. Essential for fans, it's highly recommended to anyone who enjoys country rock, power-pop, or both. — BK

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