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(Arena Rock)

Twas a couple months ago that Interpol and Calla came through a nearby town on tour, and due to some nasty weather, I packed it in and decided not to make the drive. Stumbling across this release by Calla only a week or so later, I decided that maybe I should have hopped in the car anyway. This threesome out of Texas is creating some damn fine music, and interestingly enough, their biggest weapon isn't dramatic dynamic shifts like Lone-Star State brethren Explosions In The Sky or Lift To Experience. Instead, Calla tug you in with a very subtle edge, and it's with a remarkable amount of restraint that they keep you teetering on an edge for almost the entire album, with just enough release so that you don't freak out, but never so much that you want to flash the rock fingers.

In 10 songs and just over 45 minutes, the group has seemingly come into their sound with this sophomore release. Efficiency is part of the equation, and their songs are workmanlike without boring at all. The album opens with "Strangler," and the warm croon of Aurelio Valle pulls you in while dueling guitar melodies coil over one another before lush choruses. "Monument" follows up with the pitter-patter of programmed drums and reverbed guitars that ring out like they're playing in the middle of a salt bed. Sonically, the track feels like something not too far removed from what Calexico might do, except it has that moody edge that keeps the listener pegged without plunging the track into anything full-on.

The dark swagger continues on tracks like "Astral" and "Don't Hold Your Breath," as quiet washes of guitars drift out over a jumpy bassline and minimal percussion. The vocals of Valle are a large part of why the album works as well. Without sounding overdramatic, his rich baritone moves with a sort of mystery, as if he's maybe hiding a little something back most of the time. All of the above is not to say that the group doesn't rock out at all, as the (nearly) album-titled "Televised" works an almost funky groove (the most straightforward of any track on the release) and the absolutely amazing "As Quick As It Comes/Carrera" builds from quiet guitar interplay and subtle keyboards to a pummelling finish.

For the most part, though, the group is content with a slightly more restrained sound. "Surface Scratch" mixes quiet wails of guitar feedback with a touch of piano and brushed drums and "Pete The Killer" burns a slow fuse of guitar feedback before a quiet ending. Overall, it's an excellent atmospheric rock album, with a slightly desert feel (perhaps an influence of the vast expanses of Texas). Nothing flashy, but downright solid nonetheless.

Rating: 7.75