The Morning Benders

Wednesday

SXSW Records

The Morning Benders

Big Echo (Rough Trade)

The Morning Benders waste no time in setting the singles bar for 2010, opening their sophomore LP and debut for Rough Trade with the stunning "Excuses." A vinyl hiss melts into the blurry orchestral sweep of pure pop charm behind Chris Chu's daydreaming vocal swoons. Credit Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor in production for accentuating the harmonized crescendos, but for all the Berkeley, Calif.-born quartet's melodic grandeur in opening, they may have set the bar too high for themselves. Jagged contortions and slink on the following "Promises" are unexpectedly thrilling but jar the album out of its reverie, preventing its attempted return on "Wet Cement" and the aptly titled "Pleasure Sighs" from reaching the same plane. The entire backside, in fact, alternates between those two impulses and never quite finds its footing, so that by the slow crawl to climax of closers "Stitches" and "Sleepin In," the thrill is gone. (Wed., 1am, Emo's Jr.)

**.5

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