Dry the River

Alarms in the Heart

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Recorded in Iceland with producer Valgeir Sigurðsson, who also provides string arrangements, the sophomore long-player from the London chamber pop quartet doubles down on the opulent folk-pop pageantry of their debut, offering up ten lush slabs of audio finery that blend the bucolic art-pop of Stornoway with the ceiling-peeling arena rock of the Killers. Led by the sonorous Peter Liddle, whose choirboy voice harbors a surprising amount of power, Alarms in the Heart feels sonically similar to its predecessor, but it possesses a sturdier backbone, despite existing in a near constant state of musical melodrama. This is evident from the outset, as the impossibly lush title track which, like much of the album, sounds a little like Fleet Foxes taking on Love's "Along Again Or," sets the tone and locks it in, serving as an excellent litmus test. The shadow of Brandon Flowers looms large over the rousing "Hidden Hand," the gorgeous "Roman Candle" is tailor-made for a stone circle, West Country slow dance, the nervy "Everlasting Light" houses shades of British Sea Power-inspired post-rock, and the propulsive "Med School" and "Rollerskate" prove that Dry the River aren't actually the most serious band in the world (that trophy belongs to the like-minded Shearwater). By the time the listener reaches "Hope Diamond," the 11-minute closer, which is actually two different songs (one is hidden mid-'90s style), they're suitably exhausted, though not unpleasantly so. Dry the River's best asset is the conviction with which they sell each moment, and the aptly named album, for all of its cacophonous posturing, always feels like it's coming directly from the heart, even as it's set to explode.

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