With each release, the Dive Poets refines its style of big-hearted, heartland rock & roll. The quintet released the digital single "Failing Manhattan"/"The End" earlier this year — and since that time, singer Eric Sargent has knocked some of the rust from his vocals while his bandmates have introduced steady rhythms and an easy sway. The Good & the Light (available November 2) is more of a four-song teaser than a discreet unit, and each song shows a different facet of the Dive Poets' marriage of modestly rocking Americana and sad-eyed barroom weepers.
The set begins and ends with a blast. Renato Durante's loose, clanging hi-hat introduces the sweetly ragged "I Still Miss Louise," and viola player/backing vocalist Anna Moffatt swoops in with strings and harmonies to give the tune a little lift. The closing track, "Austin," finds the band at its honky-tonkingest, with guitarist Karl Eggers' deft roadhouse picking pairing nicely with a relentless shuffle. The two intervening tracks are more introspective and melancholy. "Club 91" begins as a nearly too-saccharine character study but grounds itself with a gradual build and Moffatt's alternatingly lyrical and rhythmic viola work. More than any other track on this set, it's a song that rewards repeated listens. The limits of Sargent's wavering tenor voice get stretched a might too far on the dirge-like "Lord, Take Me Home," though once more the rest of the Poets' talents — Eggers' intuitive guitar work in particular — fill in the blanks. The EP draws an even split between twangy rock & roll and tender balladry, and that duality gives depth and range even across this brief set.— Christian Schaeffer
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