The Ascetic Junkies

This Cage Has No Bottom

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Among all the great music coming from there, Portland, Oregon has become the go-to place for folk-pop. Alongside two of America's finest proponents, the incredible multi-instrumentalist Decemberists and hugely underrated Timber Carnival labelmates the Dimes, here's a third band that the useful tastemakers at NPR should be all over. It's a good recipe: start with a pristine, fragrant recording of punchy acoustic guitars, light bass, busy background drums, lighteners like bells, and quiet trombone, clever percussion, and lush shadings; add tunes that stand up to the form's demands (can't hide behind a wall of noise) and take unpredicted twists and turns; add sharp boy-girl harmonic and lead singing from Matt Harmon and Kali Giaritta, that gives Colin Meloy's duets with his bevy of cameo beauties a run for money (Giaritta even sounds a little like My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden); sprinkle lots of alt country bits 'n' pieces (banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and the like); and then have a whole mess of a good time -- and you have this Rose City five's sophomore LP (following 2008's One Shoe Over the Cuckoo's Nest), recorded all around their home and feeling homey, indeed. These 'Junkies are hooked on pretty joys, and it's a healthy habit.

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