Distant Hearts, a Little Closer is the first stateside full-length for Dublin band Joan of Arse, a four-piece writing mildly triumphant guitar-based indie tunes with tinges of dark, mercurial folk. The album was recorded in Steve Albini's Electrical Audio studios in April 2001, released on Scientific Laboratories, and released in the U.S. in September 2002 on Flameshovel Records. With seven songs and running just over 45 minutes, the album sprawls with mid-tempo intellectualist folk-rock like "Things Asleep in the Sun," a dirgy tune accented with harmonica, gang vocals, and a weird, bendy instrument that sounds like a slide guitar but may be a manipulated keyboard track. Following this is "A Spell Cast With Fingers," a harmonium-driven track with Pink Floyd-lifted chords and a Dirty Three-style twisted violin that gives the most ominous airs of the album. Two vocalists, Joss Moorkens and Shane McGrath, share responsibilities on the album -- one singing with nasal sincerity which matches the accordion which accompanies his tracks and the other singing in a strange, Tiny Tim-sans-vibrato-style falsetto probably more appropriate for hair-raising black metal than introspective indie rock. If the latter's unsettling presence didn't break the reverie, this would be an album on par with the early-2000s work of Songs: Ohia or less-morbid Current 93.
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AllMusic Review by Daphne Carr