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Tindersticks: Falling Down a Mountain (Constellation) 

Rising from the infectious rhythm of the title song, the muted trumpet of Terry Edwards sets a jazzy atmosphere on the eighth album by this remarkable British band. Soon, singer and guitarist Stuart Staples is intoning mantra-like lyrics of a vague come-on variety against a punk-funk guitar progression. Most important, though, is the groove.

After 18 years of releasing elegantly dark mood music, Tindersticks sound happier than ever. The slow-dance "Keep You Beautiful" is an enchanting love song that comes off as a tender lullaby, and the R&B-flavored "Harmony Around My Table" shuffles appealingly along, accompanied by a breezy keyboard figure, handclaps and a cheery "la-la-la-la" chorus.

Among the highlights is "Peanuts," a lilting duet for Staples and Mary Margaret O'Hara that includes some rather silly lyrics about loving peanuts. Lightweight, yes, but refreshing.

Other than Staples, Edwards' horn-playing is perhaps the most assertive presence on this CD. The combination of trumpet and vigorously strummed acoustic guitar on "She Rode Me Down" hints at a Latin-cowboy groove, and it's followed by the haunting, cinematic instrumental number "Hubbards Hills" (written by bassist Dan McKinna), on which roller-rink organ meets Ennio Morricone, punctuated by Edwards' flugelhorn solo.

The album returns to typical Tindersticks melancholy, however, with the cuckolded-lover tale of "No Place So Alone" and the fragile "Factory Girls." The final track, the hypnotic Radiohead-style soundscape of "Piano Music," is nothing less than gorgeous.

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