While this summer's biggest affront to expectation unquestionably belongs to David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar--who besides their managers would've guessed a year ago that these two losers would kiss and make up?--Dallas indie-rockers are also in for a surprise at Rubber Gloves, when they find that Elf Power and the Appleseed Cast have flipped the script on them. On its new album, Creatures, Elf Power tones down the headphone frippery of its Elephant 6 brethren and concentrates on a lean, Velvet Underground-inspired drone, replete with primordial 4/4 drumbeats and the occasional mind-warping cello solo. Meanwhile, emo wimps the Appleseed Cast have spent a shitload of their label's money to make Low Level Owl, a quote-unquote symphonic double album that dresses its mostly negligible tunes in enough studio excess to drown Radiohead. The trade-off isn't a bad one for either act: Creatures' relatively bare-bones feel allows singer-guitarist Andrew Rieger's songs to breathe, so his weird evocations of "demons [that] have fingers that claw through the dark, reaching around just to grab for your heart" can adequately creep you out. And everyone knows that backward drum sounds and lots of reverb can make a couple of limp guitar arpeggios and a half-whispered vocal sound like Very Important Rock Music; if Low Level Owl doesn't offer the songcraft of the Promise Ring's new Wood/Water (another product of emo-with-an-expense-account), at least it packs some pointlessly cool noises.
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