Music » Hit & Run Reviews

CD Review: The Broken West's Now or Heaven

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The Deal: Improved second effort from SoCal rockers.

The Good: While The Broken West's 2007 debut had its moments, the debt it owed to the Kinks and other '60s icons seemed to overwhelm it at times. But its follow-up sounds like the work of a young band settling into its sound, and if there are patron saints of this set they're more Brit Daniels and Spoon than the Davies brothers – driving percussion up front in the mix, keyboards sharing the spotlight with barre chords and a dark pop vibe taking precedence over rock 'n' roll. Disc starter "Gwen, Now and Then" kicks off with 60 seconds of processed beats, announcing the change in direction by rendering the guitars into mere accents – albeit handsome, reverbed ones; "Auctioneer" is all swooping bass lines and piano, and highlights the band's above-average harmony arrangements; "Got It Bad," bassist Brian Whelan's songwriting debut, buzzes with early Eno synth textures. The record has a more wistful feel overall, the band's aesthetic now colored by a year-long touring slog where the fizz of being on the road eventually morphed into homesickness, but the result is a more nuanced and assured set.

The Bad: The direction-switch, while a wise decision, could have used the equivalent of transition sentences – there were rock elements on the debut that would offer additional contrast here. And "Embassy Row," the disc-closer, sounds creepily like Coldplay (minus the cloying lyrics) through its first 90 seconds.

The Verdict: Not life-altering, but a solid sophomore disc.


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