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Julian Plenti: Julian Plenti Is... Skyscraper (Matador) 

Since the album's title finds Paul Banks (of Interpol fame) literally describing his new alter ego for his audience, it's telling that he chooses to link this persona with the album's third track, "Skyscraper," an ambient, acoustic soundscape mostly sans vocals. It's one of the least-interesting songs on the album, and one of the most self-consciously avant-garde.

In fact, the struggle between traditional and experimental song forms is a key motif here. The weirder tracks are also the weakest—they rely too much on redundancy and monotone—and the more radio-friendly fare is better, like the pulsating ballad "Only If You Run" (which, tellingly, opens the album).

Most of the songs illustrate movement and progression, even if it's halting or illusory, building to crescendos that either come too late, or come too soon and then refuse to desist, as with "Games for Days." The accompanying sense of frustration and circular urgency—the need for release that is either being tantalized or overindulged—is what makes Banks such a sexy artist, exemplified by "Fly as You Might" or "No Chance Survival."

But Banks' titular emphasis on one of the album's most abstract tracks is a bit disingenuous. Most of the album is located within the Interpol aesthetic, and squares with their best work. When we find something less familiar, like lush ballad "On the Esplanade," it's lovely, but fleeting.

Julian Plenti's success lies in its ability to deftly articulate a specific mood: spectral, ruminative, perhaps a bit elegiac, but celebratory.

More by Sean Bottai

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