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Our critics' picks in new releases



On their third album, excuses for travellers, Mojave 3 conjure their version of vaguely desert-tinged country-kissed folk/rock. Not as twee--or lyrically sharp--as Belle and Sebastian, this London 5-piece sprinkles banjo, pedal steel, organ and B&S-style trumpet work on an album that evokes '70s Americana. Far from the smog and city grime, the Mojave 3 (named for the desert where Gram Parsons' impromptu funeral took place) spin wistful politely countrified alt-rock ballads.

Founders Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, the core of early '90s "shoegazer" band Slowdive, have wandered some since their Mazzy Star-ish debut, ask me tomorrow, where Goswell sang most of the lead vocals. On excuses for travellers, Halstead--riding tall on a horse with no name--takes over vocal chores on all but one track. Halstead's delivery has an intimate, up-close feel--a whispered late-night phone call from a lover--an amalgam of Nick Drake and just a dash of Neil Young. Sometimes this genre skirts perilously close to that gentle abyss of '70s American West Coast hippie soft rock characterized by bands like Bread or America. But on tracks like "Got My Sunshine" with its horns, gospel-tinged back-ups and organ swells, the Mojave 3 will lure you into their beautifully imagined world, their very own English-painted desert. The record won't dazzle or overwhelm you, but it might sneak into your bed some evening.

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