Monahans Dim the Aurora

Despite its four-day stubble and truck stop diet, alt-country is a fussy little creature. Very slight variations to the fuel can turn high performance to poor. Parking their previous band (Milton Mapes), which favoured burnouts and distortion pedals, Monahans tinkered with the air-fuel ratio and returned. On sophomore effort Dim the Aurora, the quintet experiment with a Wilco-brand blend of large-hearted balladry and patience-testing instrumental peregrinations with some success. "It's Enough to Leave You…" opens the album with a dashboard slapping sing-along that encourages acceleration. The patchwork landscape that follows features old school America desert songs ("Fit for Fire"), late night Austin bar songs ("The Low Light," featuring vocals by Will Johnson) and the aforementioned instrumentals that veer from Joshua Tree-era U2 ("Over Fields") to an overblown Yankee Hotel rest stop ("Terrene"). It's the journey that matters, as they say, but the Monahans would do well to avoid the blander stretches of interstate. (Misra)