Shawn Hewitt & the National Strike The Soft Society

Everything you need to know about The Soft Society, Scarborough native Shawn Hewitt’s debut EP, you learn in its first five minutes. "Ghost Chaser,” the disc’s bewitching, phantasmal opening track, comes in like a gentle glacial tide of icy keyboards and anxious guitars, but it goes out like a category-five prog-soul monsoon. The combination of Hewitt’s soaring yowls and guitarist Jones’ sometimes-funky, sometimes-scrabbling riffs and über-producer Ian Blurton’s crisp, uncluttered production make for an intense, darkly beautiful listen — it’s the celebrated Krautrock/indie rock summit conference Kid A was supposed to be. By all logic, the EP’s wildly dissimilar influences shouldn’t mesh at all, but Hewitt and his mates pull it all together magically. The trio’s dramatic melodies, chilly atmospherics and unpredictable guitar rhythms posit the strange places Stevie Wonder might have headed had taken had he jammed with Can and taken an interest in cabaret. Hewitt’s elastic singing is, understandably, the star attraction here, slipping fluidly between reverb-soaked purr, velvety supper-club croon and the paint-peeling wail of a wounded lover. The elemental fury of Hewitt’s voice occasionally breaks loose and threatens to run amok, but when he keeps it writhing and straining at the leash, but the soul-rattling intensity of the thing wrecks you every single time. Imagine what they’ll do with a full album. (Universal)