Knife in the Water, the Drop.

KNIFE IN THE WATER, Red River (Overcoat)—Texas' peculiar musical patchwork encompasses country, blues, punk, and psychedelic rock, styles ill-suited for cross-pollination anywhere but Texas. Bands ranging from the Butthole Surfers to the Flatlanders to the American Analog Set have added a Lone Star twist to each of their trailblazing sounds, and Austin's Knife in the Water join their ranks with a second batch of swampy songs about drugstore cowboys and dangerous drifters. Led by the harmonies of guitarist Aaron Blunt and organist Laura Krause, and accented with Bill McCullough's pedal steel, the quintet spin weblike melodies that develop slowly, almost sneakily, then snap the mood with a slashing guitar or a narrative blowout. In "Party" the pedal steel lolls along over a circular, textured guitar pattern that recalls Bedhead—to cite another Texas-bred anomaly—while Blunt invokes a hazy drawl to describe a somber night at a friend's gathering where "the speed wasn't fast enough to wash the blues away." "Promenade" and "Nevada Spider" place bedraggled characters in spooky Southwestern settings made all the more evocative by a well-placed pedal steel riff or organ swell. The only real departure in this wonderfully consistent album is "Rene," a sunburst of a song that's like a murder ballad sped up with a relentless beat. It's the type of twangy masterpiece that could only come from Texas.—Richard A. Martin

Listen to Knife in the Water's "Rene" from the album Red River

THE DROP, The New Horror Guidelines (Loveless) What I like best about the Drop is not their utter unadherence to the tired indie-rock guidelines that bind and gag so many bands (although I'm quite fond of that particular aspect of their constitution); my favorite thing about this local quartet is the serious soundscape of noise and beauty that results from their earnest, feeling rock songs. Rather than falling prey to the cult of Built to Spill soundalikes or shamelessly retrofitting themselves to the Byrds' sweet sounds, the Drop create a dreamy, otherwordly arena deep in the caverns of your ears—where guitars are as effortlessly riffed as they are transformed into hushed, moody machines; vocals are soothing even in their torment; verses and choruses astound each other; and crackling, fuzzy noises intersect and add to the alchemy. The song "I Don't Know" would play marvelously on a mix tape next to Sunny Day Real Estate's "In Circles." The line "I keep trying to break your fall" sets up a guitar line perfectly enfeebled and enhanced by what can only be an effects pedal set to Sinking. "27 Positions" starts off with the pulsating noise of your own heart, convinces you that "Every, every, everyone's a star," includes radio interference that seems to have been mysteriously channeled from a 1960s NASA research trip, and ends with a jazzy segue into "Faces Maudlin." These are not exactly the kind of songs you find yourself singing along with— rather, you think along with them, tangentially, morosely, easily, endlessly.—Laura Learmonth

Listen to the Drop's "Into the Red Red Room" from the album The New Horror Guidelines

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