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K Records honcho Calvin Johnson and his Hive Dwellers are back this week with another album of their deconstructed rock'n'roll country indie lo-fi minimal pop. They've got quite a bare bones thrown-together sound, with everything non-essential disposed of until only the very essence of the song remains.
After a slightly shaky start they really hit their stride on second track 'Streets of Olympia Town', a masterclass in pop conciseness which no amount of thin, lo-fi tones can disguise. Johnson's baritone croon sounds great over the sloppy weirdness of the arrangements, a consummate showman with no hint of irony or self-doubt. The smoky shuffle of 'Ask You' which follows it is a skeletal, slightly bluesy lament that brings to mind the Make-Up's 'Wade in the Water' cover.
In fact as I progress through the album I'm finding it consistently charming. It's only the opener 'Baby Be Mine' that I'm unconvinced by. I've even gone back to it in the hope that I just wasn't acclimatised to their weirdly empty sound but no, I just don't think it's as strong as the other songs and seems a weird choice for an opener. They might have squeezed a nine out of me if they'd hidden it later on sandwiched between two corkers.
Overall it's a very enjoyable album, their deconstructed sound forces the listener to pay full attention to the actual songs themselves, with mostly very satisfying results.
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