An Index of Birds

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Carta's second album finds bandleader Kyle Monday and a supporting sextet of players, most prominently multi-instrumentalist Sacha Galvagna, creating an hourlong work that, like its predecessor, works within a clear tradition of moody, romantically inclined rock-as-atmosphere bands while finding its own space over its 13 tracks. Monday certainly isn't trying to pretend otherwise -- calling a song "The Likeness is Undeniable," which in its slow moody build into a rock arrangement inevitably suggests bands like Slint and Mogwai, is a clever way of acknowledging the connections, but Carta know that simply repeating one style song for song would not reward multiple listens (or potentially even a first). So for every song like "Who Killed the Clerk?," which sounds like it could end a big thriller movie, there's a sweeter, calmer ramble like "Hourglass," with its shuffling pace and easy grace. As with The Glass Bottom Boat, vocals are few and far between through An Index of Birds, but when they do appear their impact is almost shocking -- thus, the lengthy "Descension" may be the slowest build of all throughout the album, but the addition of singing gives a focus that makes the song's fantastic conclusion all that much more powerful, an arrangement that showcases Monday's ear for the dramatic at its best. Other songs like "Building Bridges" and the striking "Santander" show Carta's ability at creating a feeling that's quietly entrancing instead of dramatically gripping, while "Sidereal" is the closest thing to full-on peppiness on An Index of Birds, following a calmer start with a more energetic conclusion. "Bank of England," meanwhile, suggests another path for the future, with the electronic beats and filtered textures sounding like nothing so much as Depeche Mode's darkly powerful Ultra.

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