The Bathers


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In order to immediately penetrate the slow, funereal rhythms of the Bathers' Sunpowder album, skip to track six, "Faithless." On this song, the Bathers' quiet, brooding music doesn't sound so self-absorbed; violins weep eloquently atop snapping drums and gently strummed acoustic guitars. Singer Chris Thomson chokes on his words as if each melancholy lyric was mined with thorns. "Faithless" is the key to unlocking this dense, seemingly hookless album. Once it is heard, the indecipherable vocals and pervading sadness of Sunpowder's first half is no longer uneasy listening. Thomson's gravelly voice suddenly becomes familiar; furthermore, "Faithless" places the listener in the right mood to appreciate the album in its entirety. Fans of Thomson's previous group, Friends Again, probably won't recognize their idol here; the crystalline jangle of "She's Gone Forever" is the only track that resembles that work. On Sunpowder, Thomson's voice recalls Tom Waits' drunken rasp. The piano, violins, and acoustic riffs that envelope the release will have devotees of the Tindersticks wondering if the album was labeled incorrectly. The celestial wail of Elizabeth Fraser from the Cocteau Twins sheds some light on Thomson's weighty sorrow, especially on "Danger in Love." The country-flavored "Send Me Your Halo" is an uplifting love song with stirring violins. Sunpowder may be hard to digest at first, but patience reveals its inner beauty.

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