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Elvis Perkins in Dearland

As the name of singer/songwriter Elvis Perkins' band (which backed him up during his tours in support of his 2007 debut, Ash Wednesday) suggests, this album is more of a full group effort than a mere collection of songs written alone in a room with a single guitar.

With Dearland, Perkins, son of actor Anthony Perkins, truly leaves behind any resemblance to the quirky indie-folk acts (Neutral Milk Hotel, Decemberists) he was sometimes compared to, broadening his vocal range and attack and incorporating more pre-Leonard Cohen aspects. Indeed, the instrumentation is rich and layered, as with "I Heard Your Voice in Dresden," which somehow blends a Motown beat with old North Carolina folk, creating a tension that the song never resolves that keeps the listener completely hooked.

The celebratory "Doomsday," powered by Wyndham Boylan-Garnett's trombone slides, mysteriously evokes the Kingston Trio and the circus. And then there's the Dylanesque "How's Forever Been Baby?," a downbeat ballad freighted with cynical yet beautiful poetry: "Remember, let's plant a flower and tree / Here in the rubble and debris / I'll tend it with a tear / If you'll only hold my hand."

Overall, this is smart, melodic music with a serrated lyrical edge running throughout. While Dearland moves Perkins closer to the traditional end of the folk-music spectrum, he wields enough attitude to draw indie-rock enthusiasts.

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