Precollection

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American Analog Set

Album: Promise Of Love
Label: Tiger Style
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Album: Precollection
Label: Manifesto
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American Analog Set

Album: Promise Of Love
Label: Tiger Style

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Album: Precollection
Label: Manifesto

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The curse of being an indie-rock darling is that fans grow up, the press moves on, and a cult act that moves past the five-album or one-decade mark is practically forced to accept the fate of the Miracle Legions and Poster Children of the world, remembered fondly by some but largely dismissed by pop history. Both American Analog Set and Lilys built on early buzz and are coming off great records (2001's Know By Heart and 1999's The 3-Way, respectively), but neither has fully broken through to the mainstay status that makes for a creditable indie-rock career. Yet the bands soldier on. American Analog Set's new Promise Of Love has a leftover-ish feel, especially coming on the heels of the accessible, eclectic Know By Heart, but the Texas lounge-rock group remains pleasantly listenable. Promise Of Love's highlight, the midtempo shuffle "Hard To Find," settles into the hypnotically low, bubbling style that AmAnSet has practically trademarked, and the other seven tracks offer relaxed, minor variations. The group manipulates tape to create a slightly warped effect on "Continuous Hit Music," and amps up the guitar buzz on "The Hatist," but most of Promise Of Love retreats into insularity. Given how much progress AmAnSet had been making, and given how tenuous success in its field can be, the steps backward run the danger of becoming permanent. Boston's Lilys, by contrast, forges ahead on Precollection. After a handful of records in which Lilys bent the structure of retro psychedelia into abstract rock art, Precollection abandons specific reference points in following its own gnarled path. Vaguely trippy acoustic guitars alternate with the kind of "dripping metal" electric sounds that bandleader Kurt Heasley favored in his My Bloody Valentine fandom days, and the melodies stay in the fey-folkie realm, with ample doses of the stream-of-consciousness lyrics and chord progressions he mastered on The 3-Way. But what sounds like a conscious attempt to avoid getting mired in any one genre has led to brain-busting songs like the title track and "Melusina," which require double-digit listens for basic comprehension. Given time, a track like the springy "Squares" reveals a weird beauty and integrity, and Heasley's inclination toward the challenging relents on the catchier "Will My Lord Be Gardening?" and "Catherine (Let A Positive Stream...)." But by and large, Precollection is either evidence that Lilys is developing in a direction that will prove fruitful on a future record–one fans hope won't take four years to make–or indicative of Heasley finally going off the deep end. Whatever the case, it's a shame that Precollection is doomed to even more obscurity than usual, since there probably won't be another piece of music like it this year. But then, maybe there shouldn't be.

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