Margot and the Nuclear So & So's

    {grate 3.5}

    After their forgettable sophomore slump The Daytrotter Sessions EP, Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s crash back into the barely contained chaos of drug-influenced instrumentals and acidic lyrics with a split double album. Due to band-label disagreements, Animal! indicates Margot’s version and Not Animal denotes Epic’s edition of the band’s second LP. As the former is only available on vinyl for a whopping $24.98, the downloadable Not Animal is preferred by the masses. And no wonder — listening to its crooning vocals, hyper electronic-acoustic-synth layering and cymbal-happy outbursts is like attending a crazed cosmic party to which everyone is invited.

    Though vocalist Richard Edwards genetically matches Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard note for notoriously bland note, a gene or two from Conor Oberst infuses some much-needed desperation. Combined with broad lyrical strokes on “Broadripple Is Burning” — “And if my woman was a fire/ She’d burn out before I wake/ And be replaced by pints of whiskey/ Cigarettes and outer space” — Margot captures the essence of suburban sprawl and alcohol-tinged anguish. A gorgeous acoustic intro on “Cold, Kind and Lemon Eyes” morphs into an otherworldly trip, layered first with smoke-fogged piano, then heartbeat drums and finally a crescendo to an orchestral climax. “Pages Written on a Wall” takes us to the circus, picking up elephantine trumpets, rollicking drum beats and a steaming electric guitar on the way.

    However, not every track is a trip down the rabbit hole. Not Animal’s suggestively titled “Real Naked Girls” and “Hello Vagina” wade through annoying feedback muck at a disastrously plodding pace. Still, Margot manages to speak in pictures we all understand — ex-lover vengeance, city isolation — conveying a vulnerability within the madness that could reach even the most closeted student study-holics.

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