"The Death of Us," the opening cut on the New Amsterdams' notable new release, Story Like a Scar
, is music so open and lonely that it almost had to come out of the Midwest. Kansas native Matt Pryor's frail tenor graces the rootsy accompaniment like a cool breeze across a barren plain, as his lyrics relate a tale of lovers in a secluded locale. Whereas Calexico uses desert motifs to give their songs a distinctly Western eeriness, the New Amsterdams embrace a decidedly more optimistic and lucid bent. When Pryor sings, "I've been wrong, but it's all right!" on the lovely "Turn Out the Lights," he's having as much fun with his wordplay as he is figuring out the strength of a partner's affections. The clarity and unabashed romanticism of Pryor's songs, whose subdued rock sounds are imbued with elements of folk and bluegrass, make even his clichés forgivable for their pleasant naïveté.