Pretty Girls Make Graves' sophomore album surprises

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Seattle's Pretty Girls Make Graves have been victims of lazy journalism since their inception. Countless articles claim the band was named after the song penned by Morrissey-Marr, when in fact Morrissey adopted the phrase from beat author and cult hero Jack Kerouac.

The same people compare Pretty Girls to members' previous bands, including the Murder City Devils, which Pretty Girls sounds nothing like, as well as comparisons to recent indie rock heroes Sleater-Kinney and At the Drive-In. Though Pretty Girls Make Graves does have a female lead singer, the only comparison to Sleater-Kinney is based on gender alone since Andrea Zollo sounds vaguely like Corrin Tucker. And the band uses complex guitar arrangements with a soft to loud dynamic, which At the Drive-In is popularly known for. But ultimately the parts combined aren't greater than the whole. The result is a completely innovative dynamic Pretty Girls can claim.

Pretty Girls Make Graves surprised some when they announced that the follow-up to "Good Health" would carry the Matador stamp, but after hearing their latest effort, "The New Romance," the pairing makes perfect sense. The band made the bold decision to switch directions from an up-tempo, aggressive debut to a much more calculated, detailed and ambitious sophomore approach. "Good Health" quickly made its point at 27 minutes, while "The New Romance" clocks in at a mellow 40 minutes.

What makes Pretty Girls unique is its democratic band structure. All songs are credited to the band, not to any main songwriter. Pretty Girls starts with an idea and the five members manipulate that idea into a song. Often enough, the final product sounds nothing like the original idea, they say. The members' collaborative effort clearly pays off, because no specific member of the band assumes the forefront during passionate Pretty Girls Make Graves performances.

It's no coincidence that track one on "The New Romance" is titled "Something Bigger, Something Brighter." The song title foreshadows the new LP's more mature and experienced disposition.

"All Medicated Geniuses," alternates between Zollo's commanding voice and gang back-up vocals present in earlier work. Tension continues to build as the record progresses, and "This Is Our Emergency" proves to be the climax. Last year Zollo sang, "Do you remember what the music meant?" now she asks, "A thousand voices, are you listening?" The song tackles subjects such as inspiration, creation and fulfillment. But though "This Is Our Emergency" serves as a high point, the entire album is brilliant.

Pretty Girls Make Graves sound they way five fans of music, creating music, should sound, and the result is the most original band to grace the Matador label since the beloved Pavement.

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