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The wink at the dark side in Wampire's name extends to the music on their debut album, Curiosity: the keyboards that dominate the Portland-based duo's songs add a certain horror-show flair. Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps collaborated with Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Jacob Portrait on the album, and his production bears his flair for the dramatic as well as for trippy sound effects, both of which are in full force on "Orchards." Curiosity's synthy sound recalls Unknown Mortal Orchestra as well as fellow Portland fixtures STRFKR, although the best moments, like the bittersweet, surprisingly anthemic album opener "The Hearse" and "Giants," have a color and depth to them that belongs to Wampire. With Portrait's help, Tinder and Phipps try on a lot of different sounds, some of which fit and some don't. There's a looseness to their music that, depending on the song, is either appealing or frustrating: the soulful '60s pop homage "Trains" sounds charmingly off the cuff rather than slavish, but "Outta Money"'s sad-sack synth pop is a little too shambling and long to really come together. Not surprisingly, the best-written songs, like the brooding pop ballad "I Can't See Why," stand out. Even so, there's enough potential in more atmospheric tracks such as "Spirit Forest" and "Snacks" to suggest that the moods they create could be supported by stronger hooks next time around. Indeed, as uneven as Curiosity sometimes is, its mix of goofiness and melancholy is compelling enough to make it hard to dismiss Wampire completely.

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