The Race Ice Station

[Flameshovel; 2007]

Styles: indie rock, post-rock, dream pop
Others: Interpol, I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness, The Walkmen

Stalwarts of the Chicago indie scene, The Race have always been a band willing to evolve, and Ice Station, their fourth full length, continues this trajectory. Working closely with new band member/recording engineer Joshua Eustis (also of Telefon Tel Aviv), songwriter Craig Klein has put together a strong collection of brooding and intense songs that, despite their weight, somehow never get bogged down. This is accomplished largely through careful attention to creating a richly textured atmosphere for each track, buoying the songs with intricate layers of guitars, keyboards, and drum machine.

While there is still an organic element present, the electronic moves made on If You Can are persistent, though slightly shifted. Not as cold and calculating as the prior effort, Ice Station has, ironically, a warmer sheen to it. This is despite the fact that the album is thematically centered on a metaphorical journey across the notoriously inhospitable terrain of Siberia. "Feathers" and "Ice Station" are the real rock numbers, the former propelled by charging guitar, the latter by a taut bassline and a no-frills drum machine. "Crack Goes the Lake" has a similar insistence, but the drum programming is amped up a bit, making the track into something that could be a breakout dance single with some minor remixing (which doesn't diminish its charm in its current form).

Klein's voice is in fine form throughout the course of the 11 tracks, with nary a hint of the whine that crept in from time to time on earlier releases. In addition, the backing vocals are stronger than before and add a haunting quality to several of the songs. The most emblematic of these, and the ones that stick in my head the most perversely, are the back-to-back "Odessa" and "Evil Love." These more somber songs use the interweaving of voices to great effect, turning a potentially slow spot in the album into one of its most captivating. Surely a record meant for repeated listening, Ice Station's already impressive luster should only improve over time.

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