Taking Notes

    Most of Cymbals Eat Guitars were in their late teens when their debut Why There Are Mountains dropped in 2009. A few new band members, opening dates and album-of-the-year nods later, the scrappy ’90s-indie revivalists now face their greatest challenge yet: staying relevant in a formidable sea of scrappy ’90s-indie revivalists.

    Thankfully, on sophomore album Lenses Alien, Cymbals Eat Guitars take new stylistic risks while paying tribute to their indie-rock forefathers.  

    Aside from the album’s eight-and-a-half minute roller coaster opener “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name),” Lenses Alien contains some of Cymbals’ most concise and straightforward rock songs to date, with most clocking in at under three minutes. The result is a sampler platter of musical influences. Songs like piano-driven “Shore Points” and riff-heavy “Keep Me Waiting” exhibit the quaint, lo-fi bedroom rock of Built to Spill and the Shins, while “Wavelengths” successfully dons a pleasant, alt-country twang.

    Singer Joseph D’Agostino also sounds more focused, effectively flipping through his scrapbook of indie legends — Stephen Malkmus’ eccentric drawl on “Definite Darkness,” Conor Oberst’s mournful croon on “Another Tunguska,” Isaac Brock’s primal yelp on “Secret Family” — all while retaining his own nasally, teenage inflection.

    While admittedly not as inventive as the band’s thrilling debut, Lenses Alien serves as an interesting and successful experiment — the sound of a promising new band challenging itself to grow.

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