After the gentle, hazy drift of its debut, The Beautiful World, it's strange and thrilling to hear Regina Hexaphone exchange their exquisiteness for greater muscularity. Bassist Chris Clemmons' presence—in concert with Jerry Kee's tasteful percussion—is felt throughout, a wonderful chrysalis that serves to ground the near-twee elegance of Margaret White's violin work within an unusually punchy, still homey pop bustle.
The first third of Into Your Sleeping Heart starts, in some sense, innocuously, with "Empty the Rivers" and the "Where the Angels Sing," featuring Anders Parker's haunted organ and echoing The Band's instrumental rootsy warmth. "The Move" sounds like a Neko-ish country vamp with pretty harmonies, while highlight "The Forty-Niner" strikes a poignant tone, working a perky Weimar-gypsy vibe as it intertwines expressions of materialism and disaffection.
Were those the only notes Heart struck, they would've been fine, but, onward from the sixth track, Regina Hexaphones deliver three of its best cuts to date. The back half opens with "Spider Boys," whose bright, open-hearted melodicism recalls Bettie Serveert's Carol Van Dijk on their signature Palomine, plus a dash of the Concretes' Swedish shimmer. Next thing you know, Sara Bell is shouting like she's Kate Pierson, as Nathan Brown's organ and guest Greg Humphrey's hot pedal steel provide a soulful wave that fuels "Glory Be." Handclaps and stomps fuel the jaunt of "Waiting for the Wind," whose call-and-return vocals are unabashedly catchy, and "Parade" caps the middle third with an experimental, guitar-driven flair, heralding the band's toughest—if not most endearing—tone on the album. Penultimate track "The Rib Shack" serves another reminder of Hex's ability to blend folksy jangle and White's dulcet strings in a plucky pop universe of Bell's affable vocals. Few acts can be as unaffected, engaging and majestic at same time.
Regina Hexaphone plays Local 506 with The Monologue Bombs, Lud and Hypnovista Sound System Saturday, Sept. 15, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5.