Margot and the Nuclear So and So's: Buzzard (Mariel)

As the title sort of suggests, this is a starker-than-usual effort by the Indianapolis sextet Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, which used to be an octet. (A product of the recession?)

The up-and-coming indie-rock act flirted miserably with Epic Records in 2008, resulting in an off-kilter album, Animal!, that neither the band nor the label seemed to like. (In fact, two versions were released, with Not Animal seeing the light of day via the band's own label.)

"Seems like the only way out is through the back," sings frontman Richard Edwards on the new CD in the downbeat rocker "New York City Hotel Blues," which could serve as a motto of sorts, since Margot clearly has no interest in being shoehorned into any mainstream category. Instead, tracks like "Birds"—with its tumbling Telecaster lines and eerily beautiful falsetto vocals—cement the band's goal of creating melodic yet challenging music, especially as the song reveals itself to be about something entirely unexpected: Edwards pleading with a lover, "Let's have a baby." The Southern-flavored rock ballad, "Lunatic, Lunatic, Lunatic" rivals Skynyrd's material by projecting its central character's pathos, while "I Do" succeeds in channeling a bit of John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band-era confessional bloodletting.

Not the easiest record to digest at first, Buzzard hangs in the sky of the mind like a bleak, bittersweet omen. A "grower," for sure.