Brooklyn-based Rainer Maria used to be one of late-'90s emo's most frustrating bands. They could make music that spoke powerfully and eloquently of the struggle to keep afloat in the overflowing waters of teenage romance, but they could also succumb to those waters and sound like the most hilariously overheated act in indie rock. These days they've cooled quite a bit: Despite its dramatic title, Catastrophe Keeps Us Together, the studio follow-up to 2003's so-so Long Knives Drawn is the most poised Rainer Maria album yet. Singer-bassist Caithlin De Marrais trades her old poetry-student intensity for a sort of grad-student maturity. If the music is less distinctive, at least it's less annoying. Opener Scout Niblett makes PJ Harvey-ish art rock.
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