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Soundbite

Our critics' picks in new releases

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The self-titled, self-released debut by former Ashley Stove guitarist Jim Brantley's new band is an endearing collection of songs that straddle the pop and rock worlds, blinking in and out of pretty, slowly simmering melodies such as the bubbling folk-pop of "Stop," and a rumbling rock guitar rustle as on the chiming, roaring album highlight "Charlatan." Often the two worlds cross, with the bouncy pop culminating in chunky guitar as on "Movie," which begins with a sleepy, sauntering melody and a break employing gentle, sonorous strings before reprising the chorus with a thundering cloudburst of guitar. Their facility in segueing from the softer to the louder parts is one of The Balance's great charms, melding beauty and attack. It's a good first effort, though not without its flaws. Brantley's voice isn't particularly strong and at times gets lost in the arrangements, while Matt McCaughan's drum sound sometimes feels a bit too high in the mix. Nonetheless, this album establishes The Balance as one of the better new acts to emerge in the last couple years, and evidences enough skill to engender high expectations for their next release.

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