Elk City

Status

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The debut album by New York art pop trio Elk City absolutely smokes anything by the group's previous incarnation, the '90s alterna-popsters the Melting Hopefuls. That group had its moments, but they never could quite deliver over the course of a full album. Elk City, featuring Melting Hopefuls singer-bassist Renee Lobue and drummer Ray Ketchem, along with new singer-guitarist Peter Langford-Hassan, doesn't have that problem. For one thing, Elk City bring the folkie tendencies that always lurked around the edges of the Melting Hopefuls' albums to the fore. For another, the unusual instrumentation (Langford-Hassan adds melodica and accordion to several songs, and Lobue's primary instrument is a vintage bass synthesizer that gives the songs an entirely different texture than a string bass would) and spacious arrangements give the songs more room to breathe than on the Melting Hopefuls' claustrophobic albums. The songs take odd but rewarding left turns; the way the opening "Dreams of Steam" switches gears from a hallucinatory piece of psych-folk into a bizarre sound collage recalls Judy Henske and Jerry Yester's legendary Farewell Aldebaran. That sense of acid folk playfulness is strong throughout Status; even serious tunes like "Love's Like A Bomb" never sound doomy, and all the songs feature enough cool production choices and interesting sounds to keep the listener intrigued. The only misstep is the unnecessary cover of the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'."

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