Take Pride in Your Long Odds

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While Centro-Matic haven't returned to uber-prolific mode (this a band that managed to drop nine albums in eight years between 1998 and 2006), the three-year gap that separated 2011's Candidate Waltz and 2014's Take Pride in Your Long Odds suggests Will Johnson and his crew are getting a bit of their old focus back, while the music finds them in fine form. Though the alt-country accents have gradually faded from the band's musical approach, Take Pride in Your Long Odds finds their knack for smart, inventive indie pop is as strong as ever, and this music sounds heartfelt and organic regardless of the band's fondness for lo-fi electronics and the arty meanderings of the title track. This album isn't quite the self-help guide the title might suggest, but making the best of tough circumstances does seem to be a recurring theme on Take Pride in Your Long Odds, as Johnson offers solace to a disappointed woman on "Every Mission," encourages a positive attitude despite bad luck in "Calling You Glad," and seemingly ponders why he and his buddies chose to move on while a close friend stayed behind on "Through the Fog, Then Down." Of course, this being Centro-Matic, the songs are often impressionistic, with the figurative meanings as significant as the literal, but there's a compassion in Johnson's voice that speaks as loudly as his words, and his bandmates Scott Danbom, Mark Hedman, and Matt Pence give the songs a tone that's warm but intelligent, open-minded and open-hearted at the same time. Take Pride in Your Long Odds falls a bit short of Centro-Matic's best work, as the songs often play better individually than as a whole, but there are still plenty of great moments here, and as a blend of the cool and the passionate, it confirms this band is still something different and worthwhile.

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