Autumn's Grey Solace

Riverine

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Autumn's Grey Solace's second album continues amiably in the vein of its first, which is to say that it's mostly enjoyable without being the most distinct work in existence. The general role model that singer Erin Welton and guitarist/drum machine operator Scott Ferrell follow had long been established by many different bands and duos -- rich guitar textures, ethereal female singing and crooning, a reflective beauty caught between the pastoral and the effects-heavy. But unlike, say, the razor-sharp observational power of Harriet Wheeler's lyrics in the Sundays or the awe-inspiring constructions of the Cocteau Twins -- or closer to home, the often quite striking work of similar American duos like Siddal or Love Spirals Downwards -- Autumn's Grey Solace is frustratingly competent, good but rarely breathtaking or innovative. Compared to, say, the mangled feedback abuse and keening wails of Lovesliescrushing, this is a paint-by-numbers experience where the well-played, almost liquid solos and textures and swirling vocals don't inspire as they ought -- if anything Riverine reminds one of the work of early-'90s 4AD types Swallow, who were simultaneously enjoyable and completely, utterly generic. (The way "A Tangle of Scars" opens, one wants to wish that the band would go whole hog and just remake the Cocteaus' Tiny Dynamine.) All this said, Riverine is nothing if not listenable and at times the two find a way to transcend the sum of their parts (and record collections). The duo's ace in the hole might actually be the way they end their songs, building out of conventional enough arrangements for their style to often surprisingly thrilling endings, as on the combined stretched-out-soloing/high, cool singing that wraps up "Dormant" and "Falling Sky." Near the end of the album, meanwhile, songs like "The Unshakable Demon" and "Eclipse" have notably stronger arrangements, more focused energy, and singing all around, but it's almost too little too late -- though it would be a good place to start for another album, easily.

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