Bolstered by the melodic brooding of Peter Wagner, the Mercers' second seven-song platter following their 2007 debut LP, Pretty Things Walk, strikes as the local quartet's most potent yet. Tempering their previous rock surges without compromising the power, Giant reins in to let go. Wagner's gritty, understated vocals fall somewhere between Micah P. Hinson and Damien Jurado, with a cumulative effect of steel guitar on songs such as opener "Laredo," which rings of fellow Austinites Mice & Rifles. The percussive bruise driving "A Seat on the Starla" and seven-minute surge of "Gamblers" drill down with a weight commensurate to the lyrical heft, while "Abattoir" and "NGO" turn poppier inflections over stunted chords and uneasily treaded yelps. "The Alton Giant" splits the balancing difference with anthemically rolling crescendos. Exposing a darker versatility beyond their previous efforts, the Mercers ultimately recall another Wagner and co. – Lambchop – one beginning to carve their own effective course.
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