Kane Strang

Two Hearts and No Brain

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New Zealand songman Kane Strang follows up his critically lauded debut with Two Hearts and No Brain, an 11-song set that sees the Dunedin native continue to expand beyond the jangle pop of his hometown into something darker and more jagged. Strang made waves when revered local indie Flying Nun picked up his first effort, Blue Cheese, introducing fans to his mix of lo-fi, '90s-indebted indie rock and lonesome neo-psychedelia. Thematically, Two Hearts shares an emotional kinship with its predecessor, but is executed with a toothier, more streamlined feel, doing away with the more pastoral elements in favor of edgy guitar precision. "Lagoons," a slow and heavy wonder of mercurial alt-power pop, opens the album, offering its biggest highlight and setting a tone that persists throughout. Strang's melancholic streak manifests itself through themes of depression and isolation with songs either given heft by their dramatic presentation ("Not Quite" and the slinky title cut) or plodding along in chunky bummer rock mode ("Don't Follow Me [I'm Lost]" and "It's Not That Bad"). There are plenty of strong melodic ideas, interesting harmonies, and detailed guitar parts tucked neatly into the mix, but by the album's second half, Strang's unceasingly dour tone and lumbering midtempo rhythms all start to blend together into one long overcast sky. Recorded largely at Chick's Hotel, a severe old building outside of Dunedin with a long history of hauntings, perhaps the sessions attracted some immaterial shavings of supernatural dread which increased its overall doleful feel. Whatever the case, Strang's talent remains quite apparent, even if his songwriting could benefit from some diversity.

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