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Times New Viking: Dancer Equired (Merge) 

As a term defining a certain recording style and general aesthetic, "lo-fi" includes the notion of energetic, frenzied performances recorded with a screw-the-details ambivalence. The flaws are the charms, and if one song happens to be a little weak, there are plenty more to record. As the aesthetic of lo-fi grew into its own sort of genre, what it took for a band to stand out started to match the indiscernible quality of the music.

Harsh in tone and tightly bound to noise and fuzz, Columbus, Ohio, trio Times New Viking took plenty of cues from nearby lo-fi heroes Guided By Voices. But following a label change, the band recorded its fifth album in an actual studio. The result: a sound that's cleaned up just slightly, but enough to make telling differences.

While still crude and often muddy, Dancer Equired finds Times New Viking in command of both obscurity and clarity of sound—and it's the interplay between the two that makes the record so compelling. As the band drops more of the fuzz veil, a tuneful punk sound emerges. When the band draws that veil a little tighter, the songs take on a dark mystery.

Keyboardist/vocalist Beth Murphy shines on "California Roll," "Don't Go to Liverpool" and "Fuck Her Tears," catchy songs that play up both the band's breakneck assault and light, flitting melodies.

By embracing both tension and release, Times New Viking has taken a slight detour, exposing some hidden strengths. Dancer Equired shows that a little bit of polish goes a long way.

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