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Our critics' picks in new releases


Inviting and suffused with a supple grace and beauty, Regina Hexaphone's debut album is a rich, sonorous excursion through gentle, loping melodies guided by Sara Bell's dreamy vocals.

Bell's a terrific musician who also exercises her chops in the instrumental outfit Sharkquest, and her playing--whether it be piano, guitar, mandolin or organ--keys the album's warm textures. Equally as important is Margaret White, whose violin offers a lot of sonic color, alternating between a mournful country crawl ("Highway 65," "40 Days") and expansive, elegiac numbers ("Bright Falling Stars," "Ethan's Dreams") reminiscent in their haunting melancholy tone of Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis. The Beautiful World has nary a soft spot, unless you're talking about the place it makes in your heart, and there's a variety of flavors across the album from the light, jazzy skronk of "Cicadas" to the blooming, organ-fueled summer hues of "Hero Wings" to the reflective, folk-tinged charms of album-opening highlight, "The Seahorse and the Sand Dune."

It may have taken seven years for them to release this album, but it won't take ten minutes for listeners to be seduced by this album's sophisticated allure.

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