Baba Yaga

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Baba Yaga, the Fat Possum-issued sophomore outing from Athens, Georgia-based country psych-rockers the Futurebirds, finds the sweet spot between Big Star, My Morning Jacket, and Band of Horses, offering up a spirited 13-song set that's as effervescent as it is impermeable. Doused in enough reverb to give both Surfer Blood and the Vaccines a run for their money, and built on a foundation of roots rock, country-folk, and rural indie pop, the Futurebirds have crafted a dense yet likable tonic to the winter doldrums. It's one that manages to make well-worn tropes sound vital, especially when those melodies are delivered in ragged yet rich four-part harmonies, as is the case with standout cuts like "Virginia Slims," "Tan Lines," "Keith and Donna," and the Fables of the Reconstruction-era R.E.M.-inspired "Serial Bowls." Named after a bony, child-eating crone from Eastern European folklore, Baba Yaga's uncomplicated musicality is offset by its colorful vernacular, which ranges from the cosmic ("Felix Helix," "Death Awaits") to the plain offbeat ("Womeo," "The Doewg"), yet never loses its Southern conviviality. There are times when the stadium-size production feels a little too much like a band-aid, desperately trying to oversell some of the less memorable material, much of which resides within the album's unfalteringly midtempo-heavy midsection, but Baba Yaga isn't really a record to be picked over. If anything, it feels like alt-country's answer to stoner metal (and a decidedly healthier one at that), providing the listener with a soundtrack that's as tailor-made for hazy summer afternoons as it is for the inky black curtain of night.

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