Paper Chase God Bless Your Black Heart

With a sound that may be best described as Ben Folds-meets-Steve Albini, studio engineer/producer John Congleton spearheads a dark, demented third album by his Texas-based band, the Paper Chase. Chiefly informed by his exposure to the nightly news, Congleston has seemingly ingested all of the world’s paranoia, rage, anxiety, and stress before spewing it forward on the songs found here. The album’s mood can be determined from a quick glance at its track listing where songs have titles like "Dying With Decent Music,” "A War Is Coming,” "The Sinking Ship, The Grand Applause,” and "One Day He Went Out For Milk And Never Came Home.” These are awfully heavy songs, which encapsulate a particularly bleak period in American history from a uniquely personal perspective. The effect is all the more immediate because Congleton dials his sardonic twang way, way up in the mix so that every word — screamed or spoken — hits the listener hard. In some ways, he was forced to do this if he wanted his voice to contend with the ugly bass, thundering drums, zigzagging guitars, off-kilter piano, and electronic sound maze that makes up the bedrock below him. The resulting formula essentially finds Congleton bolstering the heavy-as-fuck minimalism of Shellac into something more poppy and, if possible, perhaps even more obnoxious for the Paper Chase. (Kill Rock Stars)