The Pines Dark So Gold

Minnesota septet the Pines have been quietly garnering attention from critics and fans alike since the release of their 2007 debut, Sparrows in the Bell, under the Red House label. This year, they've released their third wonderful country noir album, Dark so Gold. The record opens with a highlight, the murky, stark and beautiful "Cry, Cry, Crow," and continues with a quiet trajectory as sparse as the Midwestern landscape from which the band hail. It's an arc peppered with unhurried fingerpicking on the guitar, as well as the banjo, ambient percussion and keys, and, most satisfyingly, the gravelly, warm voice of Benson Ramsey. There are times on Dark So Gold where the Pines' songwriting style and delivery are reminiscent of the Eels' more alt-country tracks. Other times, you can hear why the band have garnered many-a-comparison to that other Minnesotan legend: Bob Dylan. Dark So Gold is a beautiful listen, so it would be a shame to let this quiet little gem pass by. (Red House)