Modern Rituals

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Santa Monica-based indie rock outfit Chief's low-key debut oozes California sunset melancholy. The quartet’s languid, guitar-driven highway pop is built upon a foundation of blue-collar radio favorites like Neil Young and the Band, as well as the early-'90s alt-rock of Toad the Wet Sprocket and Red House Painters, and the resulting Modern Rituals feels a little stuck in the middle. Earnest, melodic, and slow to unfold, there’s not a bad song on here, but surprises are few and far between. Midtempo rockers like “Nothing’s Wrong” and “Breaking Walls” breeze by on the strength of tight, reverb-heavy production, thanks in part to Grammy Award-winning producer Emery Dobyns and vocalist Danny Fujikawa's expressive pipes, but it’s a pace that rarely deviates. That said, there are some gems here, including the dark Fleet Foxes-meets-Tom Petty mid-album dirge “Stealing,” the spacious, harmony-laden “This Land,” and the warm, weary, “Wild Mountain Thyme”-inspired “Irish Song,” all suggesting that Chief can hold their own amidst the current crop of windswept West Coast indie rockers like Band of Horses, Wild Light, and Port O'Brien.

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