You know indie rock's begun its slide into respectability (or calcification) when its front people start tossing out solo albums like guitar picks. Recent discs by Modest Mouse singer Isaac Brock and former Archer of Loaf Eric Bachmann have straddled the divide between essential slacker-guy pathos and superfluous minor-key mewing, and the new one from Helium leader Mary Timony suggests that she's just as good at the qualified victory: The Golden Dove is a bizarre fusion of the creepy relationship rock she made in Helium and the far creepier neo-prog stylings she explored on 2000's solo Mountains; though she does both well (no one else you'd want to hang out with can write as meaningfully about dryads), the mixture on Dove makes about as much sense as the crap Yoda says--on "Blood Tree," she gets in some good stuff about moons in the spooky fake-goth verses and then charges into a chorus that could've come out of any of those killer kiss-off songs Liz Phair used to write: "You showed me pictures of your ex-girlfriend/On the beach without her shirt on/And it made me sick/And I didn't tell you it did." Of course, the jumbled vision would be fine if the album packed as much heat as the first couple of Helium records--who hasn't occasionally longed for a unicorn ride out of a dead-end love affair?--but the chasm between the fantastic and the corporeal isn't the only one Timony seems intent on crossing here; she's also preoccupied with the one between good and bad. She's always been an effective singer--breathy and high, yet coolly dispassionate, like Stevie Nicks with better books and the same scarves--but the arrangements around her voice here flesh out ye olde power trio (that's guitar, drums and cello) in sometimes frustrating ways, and producer Mark Linkous, a studio whiz who's crafted gorgeous tapestries of sound on records by Cardigans singer Nina Persson and his band Sparklehorse, brings a disappointingly anemic palette to the table, stalling the songs further between damaged chamber-rock and lo-fi jangle-pop. Still, there is something exceptionally (and appropriately) bewitching about Timony's music, however perplexing it can get; consider the trip to Rubber Gloves the equivalent of sitting through those first two hours of The Lord of the Rings.
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