Elk City

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Elk City lost their guitarist/vocalist Peter Langland-Hassan soon after the release of their second record, Hold Tight the Ropes. It was a huge loss, but like any good band Elk City picked itself up, dusted itself off, and snagged a couple of shiny new bandmembers. Well, less along the lines of shiny and new and more along the lines of seasoned and time-tested, as in ex-Luna guitarist Sean Eden and ex-Lovelies bassist Barbara Endes. Things haven't been quite the same in Elk City since they came along. For instance, vocalist Renee LoBue, who stepped into the forefront once Langland-Hassan was out of the picture, reveals herself to sound a heck of a lot like a cross between Chrissie Hynde and Patti Smith. The band has dropped the Neil Young-ish twang that characterized their first two albums -- they sound tougher, savvier, more glam, not only drawing from Smith and the Pretenders but Kate Bush, David Bowie, and even Iggy Pop. And, with the exception of a few missteps, they sound better than ever. LoBue has come into her own on this album -- the cloying indie wispiness that characterized her earlier work (both in Elk City and Melting Hopefuls) has been stripped away, revealing pure muscle. She sounds practically warrior-like on the stompy, tart-sweet first track, "Cherries in the Snow," and manages to pull off a practically Bowie-esque croon on reflective tracks like "Silver Lawyers" and "Nighttime." "Los Cruzados" might be the best track on the album -- LoBue's mournful, liquid vocals are haunting and exultant on the song's refrain of "Hallelujah, hallelujah." LoBue only runs into trouble when she lapses into the saccharine, stilted sing-songiness of the opening to "The Magic Door" -- it sounds like an artifact of the band's previous self, so it sounds somewhat flatfooted standing next to the rest of the tracks. If fans can move past soggy moments like this, not to mention get past the fact that Elk City no longer sounds like a Crazy Horse revival band, they'll find a lot to believe in on this release.

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