Music from Elba

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Although Antietam was from Louisville, KY, their second album really should have been titled "Music from Hoboken." Music from Elba slots so perfectly into the mid-'80s Hoboken scene of moody, guitar-based indie rock (think Feelies and/or early Yo La Tengo) that it wasn't surprising in the least that frontwoman Tara Key and bassist Tim Harris moved to the New Jersey city later in the decade to reestablish Antietam. On this album, however, Key and Harris share the compositional and vocal spotlight with second bassist Wolf Knapp, which gives the album an odd but productive tension; Knapp's tunes, like "Concord" and "War Is the Health of the State," show a distinct influence from earlier bands like the Gang of Four and Pylon; the rubbery interplay of the two basses and the looser rhythms jar interestingly with Key and Harris' more intense and guitar-oriented songs, like the powerful "In a Glass House," one of the band's all-time high points. Other highlights include the atypically poppy opener "San Diego" and a Harris-penned instrumental, "Fontaine Ferry," that really betrays the Feelies influence. Music from Elba still has its flaws, most notably Albert Garzon's substandard, tinny production, but it's a tremendous improvement over the group's lackluster self-titled debut.

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