Elk City New Believers

[Friendly Fire; 2007]

Styles: indie rock
Others: Regina Spektor, Camera Obscura, The Geraldine Fibbers

It's been five years since the record-buying public has heard from NYC's Elk City, and in that time, the band's identity has certainly shifted. From a psych-folk sound with boy/girl trade-off vocals to something ultimately more rocking, this new Elk City is comparatively lean and mean -- and surprisingly focused. Considering the album has been three years in the making, perhaps it only makes sense that New Believers finds the band so coherent.

Saying an album took three years to make can give the impression that the product is overwrought, overthought, or otherwise just overdone, but really, this is a subdued affair with nary an extraneous note or beat. With a former co-vocalist/guitarist departed, vocalist/keyboardist/songwriter Renée LoBue is the supreme focus of the band, a position she fills beautifully. Left more on its own, the strength of her voice is foregrounded in a way it never was in the male/female duet style that dominated earlier albums. Slow-burning songs like "Silver Lawyers," "My Type of Criminal," and "Nighttime" are wonderfully executed, her bittersweet voice dripping with the perfect mix of regret, longing, and the will to move forward despite it all.

Elk City head toward more rocking territory on "Cherries in the Snow," "White Walls," and "Totally Free," and though they work fairly well, they lack the overall bite to come off as fully convincing. Probably the most successful experiment in sound is "Little Brother," a modest track buoyed by simple hand-clapping. With the presence of Rhodes organ, "Little Brother" has an undeniable aesthetic connection with breezy '60s pop, a connection that suits the band well and could become really exciting should they develop it further.

New Believers shows that even after a long period of dormancy, Elk City are fit with the chops, perhaps more than ever, to make their mark on the indie scene. With any luck, their next album won't be another five years into the future, but here's to hoping it shows just as much development and growth.

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