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Pernice Brothers

Our critics' picks in new releases

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The gentle waft of summer whisked away by autumn's golden-gilted arrival with its hint of sunset and melancholic waning offers an analogy to the knee-buckling, bittersweet beauty of the 11 orchestral pop numbers on this album, couching their songs' sullen sadness behind a shimmering veneer of strings and resplendent harmonies. It's also a recurring theme, aptly expressing the mounting desperation of lead singer Joe Pernice's (Scud Mountain Boys) characters.

From the dating anomie of "7:30" ("shed it like a change of season ... But when 7:30 comes around, there's nothing there, just bitterness") to the temp job character in "Working Girls (Sunlight Shines)" who is "contemplating suicide or a graduate degree," Pernice paints the edging twilight between hope and despair. Two of his best songs, "Flaming Wreck" and "The Ballad of Bjorn Borg" (both long-performed live but appearing here on album for the first time), perfectly capture this canny ability. The former is a stunning vignette that describes a feeling of a momentary peace as his plane noses down, during which he wonders: "Is it once? Is it twice? Is it perfect now?" The latter evokes the '70s tennis star who retired while at the top of the sport, declaiming the forever fleeting scent of success: "We killed the endless summer/Pray the season never ends/It slams headlong into the other one."

This Dove Bar dichotomy between dulcet pop arrangements and the dissolution at the lyrical center is as irresistible as it is perverse, making The World Can't Wait a must-hear for those who find beauty in melancholy.

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