Austin, Texas indie trio Love Inks based their softly drawn, low-key sound on the minimal approach of early acts like Marine Girls and Young Marble Giants. Their 2011 debut album, E.S.P., was a collection of charming pop tunes, all driven by simplistic drum machine beats and singer Sherry LeBlanc's drifty vocals. The sounds landed somewhere between mysterious and dreamlike, tapping into the most exciting elements of the previously mentioned minimalist indie bands, as well as the darkness of Fleetwood Mac and the cold, distant beauty of Broadcast or Beach House. The plot got lost a bit on their more aggressive second album, 2013's Generation Club, which suffered not so much from a drastic change in sounds as much as the songs simply weren't as strong. Third album Exi returns to the bright spots of the band's debut, meshing strong songs with dialed-back production and a far softer touch, all to great effect. LeBlanc's vocals are still front and center, and deeply buried drum machine pulses still offer the rhythms that these tunes glide in on, but everything here is significantly more spare and far more gentle than on previous albums. Opening tune "Shoot 100 Panes of Glass" is gloriously empty, with keyboard drone basslines and nearly nonexistent guitar plucks offering the only skeleton for LeBlanc's double-tracked vocal harmonies to rest on. Tunes like "Don't Hear That" and the gorgeous title track are much the same, with the same spacious approach to pop as the xx or Broadcast. Accentuating silence and space works far better to showcase Love Inks' numerous gifts than their dabblings with amped-up bedroom pop beats did. Even when Exi starts to blend together, the overall feeling is pleasant enough that any lack of dynamics can be easily overlooked.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas