Destroyer's 2002 album This Night was the David Bowie-informed Canadian art-rock band's most ambitious, with Hunky Dory-style songs developing slowly over an average of five to six minutes. By contrast, the longest song on Destroyer's Your Blues is the opener, "Notorious Lightning," which takes almost six minutes to get through a spare story of sacrifice, building along the way to a duet of strings and synthesizer and a climax of clashing percussion, over which bandleader Daniel Bejar howls "Someone's got to fall before someone goes free" for two minutes. The remainder of Your Blues sports briefer songs more in the mode of Bejar's work for the Canadian power-pop supergroup The New Pornographers, though decidedly sketchier. Bejar still builds the tracks deliberately, but the changes are fewer, which makes sketches like "It's Gonna Take An Airplane" and "An Actor's Revenge" even more evocative. Both hum quietly for a verse or two and then quickly shift into vamp mode, creating the impression of an overheard story reaching its most dramatic point without any significant setup.
Bejar's shifting style seems like a work in progress, and a lot of these songs are too much of nothing (or, as can be a problem with Bejar, too pretentious), but the rippling piano break in "Mad Foxes" and the woozy midsection of "What Road" serve as examples of how tighter Destroyer songs heighten the high points.
Tightness practically defines the songs on Fall Back Open, the second album by the arty Georgia band Now It's Overhead, an indie-rock/prog-rock group noteworthy for its confidence. The elastic twang of the guitar on "Surrender" is ropey and forceful, like something from late-'70s FM radio, while the rumbling rhythms and bandleader Andy LeMaster's belting vocals make the capitulation described in his lyrics sound regrettable but inevitable. LeMaster's complex, studio-crafted arrangements and pained, literate lyrics mark him as a crony of Conor Oberst, albeit with Mark Isham, Depeche Mode, and R.E.M. on his influences card instead of Bob Dylan, The Cure, and Neutral Milk Hotel. (Oberst and Michael Stipe even lend background vocals to Fall Back Open's title track, a gently pulsing lullaby.)
Some of the soundscapes on Fall Back Open sound featureless and flat, but most are amazingly accomplished given Now It's Overhead's youth and modest means. The band looks unassuming, but it sounds substantial.