Crook & the Bluff, 90s Television, Bronco 

Local CD Reviews: Down to the Styx, Bad 4 the Tooth, In Lights

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Crook & the Bluff, Down to the Styx
With their long-awaited debut album, Down to the Styx, psych-Western duo Crook & the Bluff (Kirk Dath & Tad Wilford) have established their identifying sound—an unholy joining of tripped-out Western psychedelia and dirty desert blues—and proven that they're masters of mood. And oh, do things get moody. Dense layers of reverberating guitar slowly grow into ground-shaking crescendos, then fade into ghostly atmosphere, over all of which echo Dath's deep, booming lead vocals. And always looming at the center of the album is the ever-watchful desert, which, in Crook & the Bluff's hands, seems to take on a personality of its own. One important aspect of Crook & the Bluff that Down to the Styx captures is their penchant for loose, meandering guitar interludes, which gives the album a sense of wild vastness. And although there are some songs that feature tighter, more conventional blues-style songwriting ("Greenbriar Coal"), the most spine-tingling moments happen when Crook & the Bluff gradually build hypnotizing tension and then suddenly unleash all the power of their dual guitars, like on the deliciously wicked "Down to the Styx," which will blow your hair back. Self-released, early February, CrookAndTheBluff.bandcamp.com

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90s Television, Bad 4 the Tooth
Low-key and sleepy, the latest album from 90s Television has a comforting familiarity akin to spending an afternoon in your bedroom doodling in a notebook and finding pictures in the plaster on the ceiling. The band's style of spacey, wobbly-kneed dream pop is slightly hazy but uncluttered—made up of not much more than nasal, mumbly vocals; jangly percussion; understated guitar; and touches of synthesizer—making it catchy but easy to pleasantly zone out to. "I Don't Care" establishes Bad 4 the Tooth's lackadaisical attitude with strummy acoustic guitar and upbeat snare drum, setting the stage for goofy songs like "Love Patient," which features syrupy saxophone and wishful, so-seductive lyrics. The longest track of the bunch, "Shoes," begins with a synth-y intro that sounds like something out of an '80s video game, giving the album a slight undertone of nostalgia. The conclusion is where the record really hits its stride, though, on the unabashedly horny doo-wop number "Jean Dream" and the infectiously catchy "Bug Girl." Self-released, Dec. 12, 90sTelevision.bandcamp.com

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Bronco, In Lights
The third album from Salt Lake City alt-country/rock band Bronco is homey like biscuits & gravy and fiery like a shot of Kentucky bourbon, even though its execution is sometimes less than perfect. The dragging tempo and flat, thin lead vocals of "Confusion Mountain" starts In Lights off on a somewhat deflated note, but the song is redeemed by tight percussion, artful touches of organ, and guitar riffs that dance deftly between country and rock. "Lady Misery" picks the energy up, however, and the juxtaposition between the song's upbeat, foot-stomping feel and cynical lyrics ("The illusion/ of happiness is just a dream") would make it the perfect thing to listen to while drowning a bad day in a drink. "Rose Colored Glasses" benefits from a more central vocalist role for bassist Angie Midgley (who's more typically heard in the backing harmonies), and her alto range and no-nonsense delivery match well with the song's lyrics about a toxic relationship. But the highlight of the album is the wistful "Dyed in the Wool" and its contemplative combination of delicate fiddle and warm acoustic guitar. Self-released, Nov. 13, Bronco.bandcamp.com

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