The Broken West, 'Now or Heaven' (Merge)

6
Now or Heaven
Critical Mass
Label: Merge

by Josh Modell

This California band's second album begins with the click of a drum machine, which seems like a deliberate departure from their debut's pleasantly anachronistic '70s country rock. But the change is mostly quick and cosmetic: The Broken West have only marginally updated their sound, now nodding to current antecedents like Wilco and Spoon (whose detached cool informs the slinky "Smartest Man Alive"). But they're never slavish imitators, and when they goose the velocity -- on "Auctioneer" and "Perfect Games" -- those comparisons gradually fade into classic, shimmery guitar pop.

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