With a Steno pad full of heartland noir and a few sturdy and dependable chords, This City of Takers launches into nine songs of doom and destruction with a grin on its face and a spring in its step. The local quartet is headed by singer and guitarist Brandon Lee, and on a breathless triptych of songs that open the sophomore release The Felt, he sounds as if he's channeling the Gaslight Anthem channeling Bruce Springsteen. There's a rootsy shuffle against plangent and sharp-shouldered guitar paired with a righteous howl that galvanizes "Winter Wheat" and summons a bitter wind in "Our Ghosts." The disc's opening trio only hints at the band's big-sky ambitions — clouds gather as "This City Is a Pipe Bomb" begins its jittery ascent and don't let up until Lee threatens, "I got one in the chamber" at the end of the album.
The synthesizers that gave an interesting texture to last year's Going Along With the Delusions Will not Be Helpful are all but absent here — the band's sound is anchored by dark, rangy guitar tones and the occasional funereal organ chord. This approach has led to cleaner, straighter-shooting songs that allow Lee more sonic space to rage and spout. As on the last release, some inimitable singers come to mind — Afghan Whigs-era Greg Dulli, for one — but on The Felt Lee channels some of the gravitas, drama and subject matter from Cursive's Tim Kasher. As cellos scrape and organs undulate in the slow build of "You Call It a Mistake, I Call It Fate," Lee repeats the mantra "Do you not know what I am?" Part man, part beast, all self-loather, it appears. It's a pose that feels a bit unearned but generally works well for the unfussy, almost visceral arrangements.Want your CD to be considered for a review in this space? Send music c/o Riverfront Times, Attn: Homespun, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.