Garbage

Strange Little Birds

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Garbage made their comeback in 2012, returning to action after a seven-year hiatus with Not Your Kind of People. Strange Little Birds arrived four years later -- a gap that's just over half the length of their hiatus -- and it plays as a continuation of its predecessor, a record that draws a conscious bridge to the band's '90s heyday. If Garbage are no longer opting in with new trends, they're also not grasping at elusive straws from the past: Strange Little Birds is a comfortable record, an album from a band that embraces its signatures and limitations. As they're a group of studio musicians, Garbage still thrill with the possibilities of recording, loading each track with all manner of trickery -- showiness that envelops, not alienates. Part of the pleasure of listening to Garbage is how their form is their substance: it's about lush, dark waves of sounds as much as it is pop hooks. Shirley Manson may tackle risky sociological or personal issues in her lyrics, but how she sings is paramount, how her voice alternately soars above and is subsumed by the washes of treated guitars. Strange Little Birds showcases this narcotic pull so well because it doesn't push at the edges of the band's sound: it embraces this ebb and flow. Such modesty doesn't mean Garbage settle for the expected -- they can achieve a sultry slow burn on "If I Lost You" -- but the impressive thing about Strange Little Birds is how it feels simultaneously familiar and fresh, a record that echoes the past without being trapped by it.

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