"Sometimes I get the strangest of feelings," Popstrangers' Joel Flyger sings on "Sandstorm," the first of Fortuna's many portraits of change and upheaval. Considering that Popstrangers moved from New Zealand to London and traded their grunge fetish for moody psych pop, it's not surprising that their second album revolves around transformation and its aftermath, but paradoxically, these differences only enhance the strengths they showed on Antipodes. Underneath their debut album's heroic doses of distortion, there was a mysterious, elliptical quality to their songs that hinted that there was more on Popstrangers' minds than they revealed at the time; Fortuna hones in on that vibe with its swirling guitars and winding melodies, cleverly emphasizing the feelings of flux in its lyrics. On the spiraling "Destine," they seem to address their expatriate status directly ("Stay on the side of the world that you know"), but more often, the band paints abstract pictures of unease. These range from the surreally cheerful and combative "Distress," which evokes Robyn Hitchcock at his spikiest, to "Violet," which is probably one of the prettiest songs to boast the chorus "We could fight tonight." While violence haunts much of Fortuna -- most notably on "Country Kills," which sets images of apathy and death to the album's catchiest melody -- this friction only ignites on the punky penultimate track, "Right Babies." More typical of the album's approach (and arguably more interesting) is the song that follows it, "What's on Your Mind?" A weary, rangy epic, it makes the most of the eerie tremble in Flyger's reedy tenor and Popstrangers' growing skill at capturing difficult-to-express moods. Even at its bleakest, Fortuna reveals more colors and emotions at the band's disposal than Antipodes did, and its unsettled songs become oddly comforting and endearing with repeated listening.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares