The USA Is a Monster

Space Programs

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    8
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The USA Is a Monster's abilities around a not easily classifiable sound have proven their ace in the hole over the years -- calling their work folk, prog, noise, or something else entirely is all accurate on the one hand and just doesn't fully cover what they're doing on the other. But Space Programs provides something of a new focus, a concise record that loses none of the duo's striking breadth but comes as close as is possible to make otherworldly pop hits out of that sound -- perhaps little surprise that one of the album's best tracks is called "Above All It's the Songs." Kicking off with the combination of sweetness and classic swagger in "Cocaine Wedding," culminating in a skronky breakdown that's as crazy as it is winning, Space Programs is the sound of a band completely fired up about its own aesthetic and more than happy to explore it wherever it may lead. Whether it's the steady loping twang of "Tulsa," building up slowly but persistently throughout the song into a rhythmic loop of music and singing, or the chaotic electronic squelches and breaks on "Frozen Rainbow," there's always something immediately recognizable as the band on each cut, almost often coming down to the duo's chanting way around vocals, a distinct and attractive element. The early highlight to the album might be "Ice Bridge," thanks to a calm start suddenly turning into a epic rock arrangement then punctuated by nervous, insistent piano, matched at the end by "Florida" and its spiraling solos. Trying to sum up the exact feeling of this striking release is hard, but that's exactly why it's such a wonderful, compelling listen.

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