Ben Mallott's debut salvo, 2008's Look Good, Feel Good, delivered an eclectic and versatile backing to his soft yet gritty, Ray LaMontagne-esque tenor. Taking time off to regroup, the local songwriter returns with a full quintet project, Machine Don't Lie. His breathy drawl still drives the tunes, but the band solidifies his sound in a more indie-rock style. The racing rhythm and soulful swoon of "Shadows" balances against the softer lilt of "As We Please" and spitting percussive pop of "Cherry Bomb," while "Don't Look Back" builds to a trumpet-laced climax. Though mid-disc triptych "Accidental Child," "Tonight," and "Rain Song" fall flatter, the exuberant choral burst of "Shoes" and swagger of "Travis Co. Jail" lift Nobody Panic in time for short, subtle closers "Josephine" and "One and All." Whether or not Machine Don't Lie provides the right fit for Mallott, he remains one of Austin's most compelling voices.
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