CROOKED FINGERS: Forfeit/Fortune [Red Pig/ Constant Artists]

Eric Bachmann’s post-Archers Of Loaf outfit makes music in an unpredictable mix of styles, from 2000’s woozy, strings-laden self-titled debut to 2005’s Spanish-inflected song cycle Dignity And Shame. Forfeit/Fortune finds Bachmann’s muse on a shorter leash, and though fans of his tendency toward noise and sprawl might have reservations about its poppier tone, Crooked Fingers’ fifth LP is the band’s most upbeat release. For all its guest appearances (Neko Case, Silver Jews’ Brian Kotzur and Devotchka’s Tom Hagerman), the album’s overall sound is tight and consistent. This is largely due to Bachmann’s indulgence in Latin rhythms and instrumentation. Songs about desperate times and looming danger (“Phony Revolutions,” “Sinisteria”) are shot through with growling brass and carried on minor-chord melodies. Though Forfeit/Fortune is bookended by its most accessible tracks, the whole is uneasy and gritty enough that the closer, the tough, catchy “Your Control” (on which Bachmann duets with an all-stops-out Case), sounds absolutely right. It’s an album-capping moment that indulges in sweet harmonies and rueful observations (“You say you want resolution/I say you want your control”) at the same time. [www.constantartists.com]

—Eric Waggoner

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