The Willowz

Fifth

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The Willowz had a strong run of trashy garage rock meets bluesy hard rock albums in the 2000s before taking a break in which the members played with an array of other groups like Cults and the Last Shadow Puppets. During the time off, they lost guitarist Aric Bohn, but the remaining trio sounds as tough and fun as ever on 2017's Fifth. With guitarist/vocalist Richie James Follin working the controls, the band sounds a little cleaner and less scrappy this time around. There's a heavy punch to Fifth that some of their early work lacked, as well as a confidence to their performances that helps put the songs over. Whether blasting through some stomping heavy garage (the rifftastic "Fair," "Never Let You Go") or rambling through psychedelic expanses ("Anyways"), the band sounds focused and locked in. The songs that stretch their template a little work just as well. The baroque moods of "Don't Let Them See" fit them like a bespoke suit, with Follin's misty-lensed vocals and the band's restraint bringing something new and nice to their sound. Elsewhere, the low-key glitter choogle of "Just Can't Wait" is a nice mutation of their garage rock attack and features a killer chorus, "Lily" is the most interesting production on the album (pitched somewhere between T. Rex and Pink Floyd), and "All the Same" is a skinny tie-clad power pop ballad any band of that ilk would have killed for in 1976. It all adds up to the most diverse and varied album the Willowz have made yet, and if some of the scruffy charm of their early albums has been lost along the way, it's more than made up for by the improvements in production and songwriting on this very impressive comeback.

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