Nicholas Altobelli

With his latest album, Radio Waves & Telephone Wires, the rather prolific Nicholas Altobelli proves himself an artist evolving. The folkster's appropriately sleepy vocals that enrobed last year's solid The Regulator have indeed been provided an effectively sharper tone this time around, but not by much. Such alteration is but one sign of Altobelli's ability to display a different side than he has with past works.

In one of the more underrated local musical coups of recent times, this self-proclaimed Ryan Adams fan landed a duet with Whiskeytown co-leader Caitlin Cary. The resulting tune, "Bluebird," is a beauty that mournfully aches with a pristine, ghostly echo. Actually, it just might be the best local folk song of the year.

In the past, Altobelli's obtuse poetry has had a tendency to distract. And aside from the slightly head-scratching "Whispers in the Attic" and "When the UFO Landed" — two atmospheric cuts that are composed of ominously crawling piano, backed by faint, electronic fuzz — the most prominent hint of progression here is in Altobelli's embrace of a more straightforward style of storytelling.

As evidenced in a song such as "After the War" or even the aforementioned "Bluebird," such a role is one that Altobelli wears rather well.

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Kelly Dearmore