The String Cheese Incident

Believe

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In a reversal of their time-tested process, Colorado jam institution the String Cheese Incident offer up Believe, a collection of new songs built in the studio rather than on-stage. Their second go-round with producer and ex-Talking Head Jerry Harrison, Believe is the product of a cloistered group-writing session at a rented house in Sedona, the results of which were then arranged and recorded at the band's own newly constructed Sound Lab Studio back in their home state. As a collection, it's as varied as anything in the band's catalog, with a particularly slick feel on the more upbeat tracks. This bit of added gloss may be owed in part to the new process, and when it works to their advantage, it illuminates SCI's hard-earned tightness, amplifying the beefy rock grooves of "So Much Fun" and the progressive, jammy closer "Beautiful." Elsewhere, though, it merely accentuates what already feel like middle-of-the-road jam-pop tunes, like the sunny but predictable "Sweet Spot" and the goofy disco of "Stop Drop and Roll," both of which will likely fare better when stretched out organically on-stage. Believe's best moments come via the crafty bluegrass-tinged folk of the lovely "My One and Only" and the deeply harmonic psych-rock ballad "Flying," two songs that feel more focused on songwriting than groove. Missteps aside, SCI's latter-day work with Harrison at the helm has generally been a pleasing addition to their catalog and once again they remain true to their tight-knit ensemble ethos on this diverse set.

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