Campfire OK Strange Like We Are

Banjo is becoming rock shorthand for credibility. That's not to say it isn't a noble instrument, but many a band these days (I'm looking at you, Mumford & Sons) are replacing real songwriting talent with sawing on a banjo. Campfire OK have banjo to varying degrees on new LP Strange Like We Are, but it's subtlety is indicative of some actual songwriting maturity from the group. Nothing is over (or under) used, possibly to a fault. Album opener "We Lay In Caves" is a bit of a bait and switch; it's bursting energy and thumping low end a false indicator of the thoughtful record to follow. "Hard Times" lurches towards an unclear goal, while similar structures on "I Would Like Everything" seem to complete its thought. It's a powerful conclusion, one whose highs are seen intermittently through the next half-dozen tracks. "Bleach Blonde" marries plodding piano and drums for something more than the sum of its parts before a hot jazz injection on "Primp and Prune." Strange Like We Are gets caught up in its meticulously layered parts, rarely relaxing and enjoying the ride. I can't wait until Campfire OK's confidence catches up with them. (Ana-then)