Candidate Waltz

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For a band as wildly prolific as Centro-Matic, who released no fewer than six albums between 1999 and 2000, a gap of five years between LPs is both unusual and a bit worrying, but Will Johnson and his bandmates have returned to action with 2011's Candidate Waltz, a set of songs that confirms they haven't lost touch with what made them special during their time away. Running through nine songs in just under 33 minutes, Candidate Waltz isn't an epic, and in many respects that works to its favor -- while the album's studiocraft is excellent and Johnson's instincts as a songwriter are as sure as ever, this music sounds fresh, confident, and just a bit edgy, not like the work of a band whose members have been worrying over their material while biding their time in the studio. Producers Scott Solter and Matt Pence have given these performances a sound that's careful and well constructed without squeezing the life out of the band, and Johnson and his multi-instrumentalist partners Scott Danbom, Mark Hedman, and Pence have summoned up a web of sounds behind the songs that's clever and emotionally resonant at the same time, complementing the thoughtful and frequently melancholy heart that lurks beneath Johnson's tunes no matter how cheerful or rollicking they seem on the surface. Candidate Waltz often sounds expansive, as if this music was designed to cover a large sonic canvas, but Centro-Matic manage to keep this music emotionally intimate at the same time, and the material connects equally well with the heart and the head -- this is indie rock where the big hooks and bold arrangements never get in the way of the complex emotions at the heart of these nine songs, and that's why five years isn't too long to wait for music this special.

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