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The Kingsbury Manx

Chapel Hill, N.C.'s four piece The Kingsbury Manx evoke some of the sound and spirit of the 1960s English folk and psychedelic scenes on their fourth full-length release, The Fast Rise and Fall of the South. Echoes of Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, Traffic, Fairport Convention and The Kinks (check out "900 Years" and the gorgeous "What a Shame") all ground them in the deeply textured music of that fertile era.

But The Kingsbury Manx are not even remotely a retro act, nor do they ape other bands. Like the acts just name-checked, they show an adherence to songcraft, well-crafted arrangements and emotive power. And it's no fluke that the new CD was produced by Wilco's Mikael Jorgensen, who gives it a crystal clear shine similar to Wilco's A Ghost Is Born.

The Fast Rise is largely a keyboard driven affair, with brief solos in "Nova" and "10008" and a guitar freak-out at the end of "Ol' Mountainsides" the only significant guitar leads. Otherwise, it's pianos, organs, synths, mellotrons, Wurlitzers and more driving the clear-eyed, striking pop songs. The songcraft here is exquisite--Brian Wilson (or Paul McCartney or Air or Elliot Smith or Steely Dan) would probably delight in the un-fussy, simple but swoony arrangements and Bill Taylor's richly evocative vocals on "Animations," "Snow Angel Dance" or "Harness and Wheel." The Fast Rise is A-list pop from start to finish.

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