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This DC/NYC five-piece’s sumptuous, richly detailed 2010 debut Memento Mori was one of my favorite albums of that year. But this sophomore effort is even catchier, combining the lighter, slower-tempoed Memento’s melodic depth and multi-faceted songwriting with a harder-edged bite. The electrifying, Metric-like single “It’s a Cult” is their most exciting song to date, while the similarly sizzling “Firing Squad” is not far behind. As well, twin sisters Emily and Susan Hsu’s lush, expressive violins are featured more, as on the lovely string quartet-like instrumental “Jus Divinum” (these guys know their Latin!) and the frisky “Autumn of the Patriarch.”
Best, the siblings’ singing has never sounded better; on the bracing “Rainbow Warzone” and the enriching “Under the Sun,” their intertwining, honeyed voices are literally bursting from the speakers. And on softer beauties “Pillow Institution” and the title track, they coo so delectably, it’s like they’re trying to lull a baby to sleep. (Though lyrically, both songs pack a punch, addressing the tendency to lose focus and fall behind as we grow older: “When you wake up and you realize/That you slept through the revolution/You showed up ready to fight/But someone’s already sung your Hallelujah,” the sisters croon on “Pillow.”)
Given the Hsus’ prodigious talents, it’s easy to overlook their three male bandmates, but guitarist Aaron Leeder, bassist Brett Niederman, and drummer John Thayer again provide solid and varied backing. They dig in deep on the two atypical, heavier final tracks, the proggish “Black Witch Moth” and the grinding “Army is the Beat,” the latter ending like an unwieldy building collapsing under its own weight. Finally, not surprisingly for a band named after an obscure stage direction in Samuel Beckett’s 1957 play Endgame, their words are always literate and meaningful. With two terrific albums under their belts, Exit Clov have staked their claim as one of the Northeast’s most alluring and intelligent bands.
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