Above the melodic guitar and synthesizer, Peter Wagner's distinctive voice soars, part Peter Gabriel, part Jeremy Enigk. It's distracting at first, even a bit abrasive. Yet by the time the Mercers' debut loops back 'round, Wagner has become inexplicably woven into the local fivepiece's lyric-heavy songs, which are head and shoulders above previous incarnation Choking Ahogo. If not for Wagner's vox, the riffs of opener "Sexy Youth" and addictive bridge of "Use for Abuse" would seem formulaic, but behind that compressed croon, acoustic highlight "The World It Has Forsaken Me" and chilling closer "Evo" become heartbreaking odes to faraway lands. The Mercers' take on Americana pop lands them somewhere on Irish shores. Wagner's storytelling, brothers Erik and Bryan Ray's able bass and guitar, and Nathan Delacretaz's pedal steel melt into a worldly vision of classic rock & roll, a testament to true songwriting determination.
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