Christina Vantzou No. 1

When even vendors and label press make coy concessions to a new artist's overt similarities to established ones (in this case, Stars of the Lid, Peter Broderick, et al.), it makes nominal criticism difficult. To wit, Vantzou first emerged in duo the Dead Texan, with Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid). While their self-titled 2004 album's drones tended to dwell within a Satie-influenced pop music realm, this album is fully grounded in compositions given voice by strings and French horns instead of rock instruments. There are hints of Jóhann Jóhannsson, or even Gavin Bryars, in the swells of these pieces. Emotionally subtle, the themes are neither overtly joyous nor melancholy, though both impressions could be read into the stately neutrality. Layers of stillness define this music, like a boat pushed out onto a quiet lake, ripples affecting light and reflections before coming to rest once more. No one should much mind sameness when it's this good. (Kranky)