Peoria

Austin’s Cotton Mather ended its nine-year run in 2003. The group’s Beatles-esque power pop had garnered praise from NME and bands like Oasis in the UK and inspired a following in Asia, but in this country, not so much. Still, everyone wondered what leader Robert Harrison would do next. The answer came to him while he was recovering from a back injury, and in 2006 the uneven, magnificent double-CD debut from Future Clouds & Radar appeared. Laden with overstuffed arrangements and fueled by horns and strings, the album moved effortlessly from pop to psychedelia to garage rock. Critics took note; fans less so. Now comes Peoria (Star Apple Kingdom), which, due in part to its length (eight songs, 34 minutes), has an intimate, even-keeled feel. Pared to a core five-piece band (including ex-Spoon bassist Joshua Zarbo), FC&R sacrifices some of its rambunctious nature for a crisper, ethereal focus. Harrison is a devotee of melody, but he’s clearly pushing his music into more-ambitious arenas; there’s a stranger, ominous tone here. But by exploring these darker corners, he may yet bring light to his band’s continually riveting work.

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