Elk City

House of Tongues

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On the fifth album of their now decade-plus career, House of Tongues finds Elk City creating a kind of classic rock for indie audiences -- not exactly a new or surprising approach per se, but one that follows a different trajectory from the hordes of neo-Springsteens the 21st century seems to have produced. Instead, thanks in large part to Renee LoBue's coolly passionate vocals, Elk City call to mind figures like the Wilson sisters of Heart, Chrissie Hynde, and Johnette Napolitano -- a kind of aware, controlled singing set against music that's neither '70s rock & roll as such nor indie in the newest sense, more a flowing combination of a lot of things in between. It's a synthesis that sometimes is ultimately just pleasant instead of demanding the attention, but at its best the band creates its own particular space, with the lovely instrumental coda of "Nine O'Clock in France," all swooping synths and gently soaring guitar lines, being a standout. Lyrically not everything sparks off, but "Protection," coming near the end of the album, makes for a nicely heartfelt take on the struggles of loneliness.

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