The Static vs. The Strings, Vol. 1

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Centro-Matic's aptly named The Static Vs. the Strings, Vol. 1 collects rarities, outtakes, and B-sides dating back to 1996, contrasting their chugging, fuzzed-out power pop with melancholy, countrified ballads. What holds their divergent tendencies together is the group's somewhat shambling but confident approach and the appealingly scruffy production, which balances their muscular sound with their skillful melodies and harmonies. At their revved-up best, Centro-Matic is downright infectious and slightly quirky, particularly on songs like the sprightly "Neighbors. Habits. Downtown," the driving "D. Boon-Free (A Ninth-Grade Crime)," and especially on The Static Vs. the Strings, Vol. 1's centerpiece, "Turning Your Decisions," which features lyrical gems like "You're dreaming up plans in the Aerostar van." The group's ballads, like "Recaptured the Silent Way," "Say Something/95 Frowns" and "You Might Need This Now/Most Peaceful Yeough" recast the group's sleepy, raspy vocals as poignant instead of wry and belie their Texas roots. Best of all, the album's jubilant closer "Keep the Phoenix in Slow Motion" has the best use of whistling and honky-tonky piano in an indie-rock song in a long, long time, making The Static Vs. the Strings, Vol. 1 almost as much fun to listen to as it must have been to make.

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