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Now Hear This: Sirens Go By - Eric Anders and Mark O'Bitz

Rating: ***1/2

I offered my take on the previous album by Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz, and I found a lot to like in “American Bardo.” This album feels a bit too safe, but still has much to recommend it.

To get the glaring negative out of the way, it must be said that ‘Sirens Go By’ seems lacking in sonic diversity. While this collection of songs explores some of the same swampy ground as its predecessor, there’s a way to throw in some changes in direction, even if the map you're drawing is of the same plot of ground.

All of that being said, there is still a lot of great-sounding music here. I’m in a Facebook group called “oddly specific playlists,” and this new album hits the sweet spot if you’re creating a playlist for “Mournful Times When Things Look Really Grim But You Still Want To Hang Onto Something.”

The album is subtitled “Songs in the Times of Coronavirus,” and in that context, most of it works well. Glimmers of light peek through the sadly loping tempos—a jaunty whistle here, a frilly guitar hook there.

The album hits a bit of a lull near the middle with “Horizons We Can’t See Past,” but then some tasty fretwork and the keening, high-lonesome vocal of Anders brings us back to level ground.

Sometimes (like on “Horizons”), Anders sounds like an urban version of whichever Avett brother sings lead (I could look it up, but so could you!). Most of the time, though, he sounds like a time-traveling cross between Thom Yorke and Neil Young, and that vulnerable tone quality carries much of the album’s emotional weight.

The title track (next to last in song order) is lovely, and musically, it may be a little more accessible than some other tracks on ‘Sirens Go By.’ It manages to evoke emotion without feeling like a museum piece.

I also quite enjoyed the album’s closer, “We Sing Goodbye.” In particular, the mix serves the song well—unlike most of the tracks here, when the vocals are prominent and exposed, this benediction starts with the vocal deep in the mix, more like a whispered prayer.

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