Autumn Owls | Between Buildings, Toward the Sea (PledgeMusic)

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cd autumn-owlsGary McFarlane's voice is yearning, understated, and wholly captivating, the music continually making sharp jabs and jags.

Remember the beautiful disjointedness of Sunny Day Real Estate? Dublin quartet Autumn Owls does, too—and that's not really a bad thing. In fact, it's kind of a different thing: stuttery, meandering indie rock with a something of a Brit-pop flair. The band itself calls its sound "deconstructed folk"; while I agree with the "deconstructed" bit, I'm not so sure about the "folk."

The album opens with "Unconvinced," which finds vocalist Gary McFarlane singing as if from afar. The song's laid back yet smoldering, a gorgeous intro to the disc. A nearly undetectable segue into "Semaphores" follows, a song with pacing that switches on a dime, keeping the listener tuned in. Various instruments take center stage at various times, including drums, keys, vocals, and foreboding guitar. McFarlane half sings, half speaks the words, which fade midway through in favor of the aforementioned guitar.

The band slows things down with "Spider," which is both low-key and quiet. McFarlane's brogue slides slightly into his delivery, making the listener feel she is on a journey across the sea. If the "folk" classification fits anywhere, it may be on "Space Room"—although I'd still call it indie/post-punk over anything else. "Kiss the Wine" is swelling and atmospheric as McFarlane sings, "There are things that I can't stop from happening/ like the wind that blows the music away." The sound of chains reinforces the message behind "Quarantine," letting the listener feel the oppression of captivity. "Great Atlantic Drift" is, as it portends, drifty, sounding a bit more like Bauhaus than SDRE and its ilk.

McFarlane's voice is yearning, understated, and wholly captivating, the music continually making sharp jabs and jags. Unfortunately, though, by about two-thirds of the way through, the album will have dropped into the background, as songs begin to sound like ones you may have already heard. It's an intriguing effort, to be sure; too bad its uniqueness and excitement can't be sustained through all 12 songs. B | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: Sunny Day Real Estate, +/-

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