Boxstep The Faces All Look On

On This is a well-orchestrated opus by an eight-piece group from the unlikely home base of Pittsburgh, PA. Following in the footsteps of artists like Mercury Rev and Sparklehorse, Boxstep takes slow, country-style indie rock and jazzes it up with strings, piano and even accordion. The end result comes across something like a louder Rheostatics, if they happened to be part of the Elephant 6 psych-rock posse. Most of the album's nine tracks clock in at over five minutes, which is necessary for the songs to reach their crescendo, and then come slipping back down again. Amazingly, this material was recorded in only three days at Chicago's ACME Studio. The sessions were handled by Bill Skibbe, known more for his work with punk bands and his gig as engineer for Steve Albini. There's a real sense of accomplishment on this album, and it actually leaves you feeling quite spent after a full listen. The lead track, "Ryan's Glacier," as well as "Irish Elk" and "Second Wedding Anniversary" are great examples of the Boxstep formula working wonderfully. The album's weakness, unfortunately, is singer-guitarist Eric Graf's voice, which struggles through much of The Faces All Look On. Not that perfectly tuned vocal skills are a mandatory requirement - Mercury Rev's Jonathan Donahue is a prime example - however, Graf just seems a little unnatural. When the vocals are layered, the sound becomes even more awkward to absorb. This is too bad, because the musical backdrop to the album is outstanding. That being said, there's enough on the album that works well to make it worthy of attentio (Overcoat)