The Close Readers (Austin Records)
The Close Readers is a musical project of acclaimed Wellington writer Damien Wilkins (guitar/ vocals), ably assisted by Cassette drummer Craig Terris and assorted guest players. As with “Lake Alice” and “Okay”, the highlights of this band’s 2011 debut Group Hug, the best tracks here resemble truncated short stories: rich with detail, populated by damaged souls and delivered over a frazzled country-rock sound that recalls Neil Young. “Kathleen” overcomes an early resemblance to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” to evoke prime Go-Betweens; “Troubled Water” is a witty tale of a stereo given away by a newly converted Christian, and the title track is the greatest disaffected urban fable REM never wrote, with Wilkins channelling Michael Stipe as he considers family dysfunction from the point of view of an alienated son. Terris’ drumming is an understated delight — check his recasting of Phil Spector’s classic “girl group” beat on Whisper — but Wilkins’ words shine brightest as he ponders the ways distress may be generated, amplified or healed by family.You read about the album here back in October. And yes, it really is that good.