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Am.Are.Is: Amorous (Self-Released) 

"Emo" is a terrible word. And "screamo" is even worse. So let's just say that Am.Are.Is play the kind of rock music that At the Drive-In and Thursday forged at the turn of the century. On their debut album, the Tucson foursome continue in that tradition of alternating brutal outbursts with sensitive introspection, both musically and lyrically, wrapped up in immediate and catchy songs.

Things get more interesting as elements of Fugazi and even least-emo-band-ever Black Flag get thrown in the blender. Without the context of this music being a hot moneymaking commodity in 2013, as it was in 2003, Am.Are.Is are free from formula and silly dogmatic restrictions. By going to the underground of the unhip, Amorous becomes a playground full of post-punk textures and styles from the last 30 years.

High points are the chanting opener "Passive Activist," exciting in its primitivism, and the dub-inflected "Weak Teeth." Amorous is pretty consistent, although titling a song "Spillblanket" does nobody any favors.

By remaining under the radar simply because major labels jumped off this train years ago, Am.Are.Is display commitment and devotion to the path they've chosen to follow, and Amorous is a much better record for it.

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