Ester Drang Rocinate

[Jade Tree; 2006]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: mellow pop-rock, lounge, indie rock
Others: The Dears, the Doves, American Analog Set, the Czars

Oklahoma-based Ester Drang's third full-length once again showcases the group's lushly-produced pop-rock. The appeal of Rocinate is layers upon layers of (mostly) tastefully-applied effects, from the moody synths of opener "Come Back Alive" to the gorgeous strings of "Hooker With a Heart of Gold," to, well, lots of other stuff. Ester Drang's members have played with Sufjan Stevens and Pedro the Lion and have toured with American Analog Set, and their sound fits right in with these acts. I have to admit, however, that when I hear singer/guitarist Bryce Chambers emote "None of this seems real to mee-ee-ee" on "Grave Mistake," I can't help but think of Ween's White Pepper songs like "Back to Basom" and "Pandy Fackler," which, quite adroitly, took the piss out of a super-serious, shiny soft-rock like Ester Drang (and Steely Dan, which frankly Rocinate kind of sounds like).

So Rocinate turns out to be pretty nice, but not quite as good as this year's His Name Is Alive record, which is just as produced, but a bit more interesting. If you're into the croony, polished thing that'll sound good on your home theater system, give this a whirl — but don't expect to remember anything about it when you're through.

1. Come Back Alive
2. Valencia's Dying Dream
3. Grave Mistake
4. Hooker with a Heart of Gold
5. Great Expectations
6. Everyone is a Victim
7. Smoke and Air
8. Caledonia
9. White Lies
10. Proustian Moments