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Wembley's How to Talk to Strangers

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Wembley inhabit a space where the unconventional dates the popular, taking the naïve to the art house cinema, the microbrew pub and the grimy rock club. Against all odds, they hit it off; the occasional discomfiting moments make the swoon that much sweeter.

Wembley often channels the shambling but melodious lo-fi gait of old Slumberland Records acts such as Small Factory or Black Tambourine, balancing it against an alter-ego that chases sputtering beats, chamber noir theatrics and droning atmospherics like lights in the fog. Singer/guitarist Neven Carswell bridges the two in a breathy baritone that is equal parts Thom Yorke menace and Britpop croon.

Those paired juxtapositions are epitomized by "Two's Good." Midway through the warm late-night pop number, everything drops out but the drumbeat and the horns. The song drifts over reverberating guitar for several measures before reconnecting with the tune. During the Walkmen-like "Taking Advantage," they step stylishly over a jazzy rhythm and whining pedal steel before luxuriating in a piano-pop break. Then, of course, they strut back to life.

Such unpredictability is enticing, rewarding multiple listens. One of the best tracks is "(this is my) Nature," in which cello keys an anxious melody as Carswell explains, "We never knew the mark but we got quite close, same make, same model." Clanging guitars bounce within the cello's sonorous strokes.

The other highlight is "Nvo's Rzr," in which a minimalist synth intro gives way to jazzy swing. Carswell adopts his Yorke-ish world-weariness to intone, "I know the way it ends/ And it never ends/ Have you made your mind up?/ Is it fight or flight this time?" It's a delightfully flirty tune that concludes in a stony interlude.

Label: Miserable Dental Records

Correction: Song lyrics have been corrected.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Song surge."

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