Town and Country 5

On their aptly named fifth release, the Chicago quartet takes their acoustic sound into the purest of realms by recording the instruments without amplification. The opener "Sleeping in the Midday Sun” sets the tone for the album, halving itself into a drone of viola and cornet and a pulse driven by triangle and acoustic guitar. Both halves, drone and pulse, form whole themes that are minimalist, unhurried, and emotionally stoic and distant. It’s easy to conjure a picture of Town and Country playing out their set expressionlessly while the ship they’re on is sinking. Even in the more up tempo parts, as in the harmonium and hand chime bounce of the closer, "Shirtless,” the music seems to be running, as they say, to stand still. Like a pointillist painting, each instrument’s dot-perfect detail; the water glasses, the shakers, the bowls sound whole and clear, but putting the dots together reveals a fairly ho-hum pastoral scene. (Thrill Jockey)