Welcome the Problems

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The full-length debut by suburban Chicago's Colossal, following 2003's Brave the Elements EP, mixes the post-rock lyricism of the Sea and Cake or the Coctails (singer Jason Flaks also blows a mean muted trumpet) with the more assertive, tricksy edge of bands like Karate or even Tortoise. In other words, the songs are quite often pretty, but in a cerebral, chilly sort of way. Flaks' low-key vocal style and opaque lyrics treat the voice as just another instrument in a mix dominated by the guitars of Flaks and Pat Ford, which occasionally wander into the same sort of neo-prog showboating as the otherwise dissimilar Minus the Bear. The only problem -- and it's one that plagued Brave the Elements as well, which suggests that it's a deliberate stylistic choice -- is that the drums are annoyingly over-prominent in the mix, with a booming, hollow sound that distracts from the rest of the band, particularly Eli Caterer's fluid basslines. (Rob Kellenberger plays drums on all of the cuts, but half of them also feature extra drum tracks by producer/mixer Scott Adamson, which might be part of the problem right there.) Most of the time, the melodic strengths of these thoughtful but never inaccessible songs are enough to keep this unnecessary rhythmic emphasis in the background, but it's the sort of thing that might really bug some listeners once they notice it.

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