The Incredible Vickers Brothers

Torch Songs for Swingers

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Appearing a full decade after his debut, Torch Songs for Swingers is the follow-up from West Coast indie pop craftsman Robert Vickers, who handles the identities of both Rob and Bob in his faux brothers duo, the Incredible Vickers Brothers. Like 2008's Gallimaufry, Torch Songs was produced by Vickers' former Orange Peels bandmate Allen Clapp, and revels in tones of jangling power pop and smartly arranged pseudo-Americana replete with the kind of harmonies that could only be achieved by a blood relative or a multi-tracked alternate identity. Beginning with the excellent lead single "Mirrors," Vickers takes on the cruel hands of fate that are often dealt in midlife, from death to divorce, doing so with hooks, melody, and rhythm. Songs like the surprisingly sprightly "Bleaker and Bluer" and "Walkabout," with its lushly arranged midsection, take a confident approach to universally human themes, melding relatability and craft in a way that feels effortless but is surely hard-won. Ending on a tender note, the dreamy closer, "Wreck Up Ahead," dispenses somewhat with Vickers' wry veil, offering instead an appealingly bittersweet piano ballad whose car wreck/breakup metaphor is very nicely conceived. With ten years of life lived between outings, Vickers encapsulates his stumbles and hardships without being too much of a downer on this strong and tuneful sophomore outing.

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