Luminescent, short drones serve as the bookends for Absence, the excellent third EP in as many years from Greensboro dream pop quartet Citified. Opener "Founded" begins with a single repeated chord, its iterations blurred into a thin, singular stream of tone that glows inside of the speaker. A second guitar joins, playing the chord's notes one at a time, droplets of water splashing up from and down toward the pool below. Just 18 minutes later, the woozy languor of closer "My Family Cup" downshifts until there's nothing left save two guitars, buzzing back and forth between two long, radiant notes.
These drones aren't art-rock pretense, though. Rather, they're a momentary glimpse into the machinery of Citified, a band that—like many predecessors, from The Feelies in the '80s to Grandaddy much earlier in this decade—takes seemingly straightforward rock songs and floats them beautifully over a latticework of sustained tones or dense figures. "Landlocked," for instance, is a rhythmically locked tune, drums, bass and one guitar stabbing ahead in perfect time as the reverbed wisp of Chris Jackson's voice enters. But there's a second guitar, lurking just in the background and delivering short circuits of notes stretched just long and wide enough to fill all negative space. These notes form a taut canvas upon which the rubbery tune can bounce higher. On "Dutiful Scout," that electric guitar thinly veils the Merseybeat oomph and doo-wop vocals in a glittery shimmer. The effect suggests listening to your favorite pop song with a slight case of tinnitus, its perfect hook dulled by a complementary ringing in the ear.
"Scout" is also the songwriting debut of Citified multi-instrumentalist DM Franklin Kane, just as "Founded" is the first recorded co-write between bassist Diego Diaz and Jackson. Considered alongside Jackson's contributions, each of which shows the finesse of a full band massaging every detail to its liking, the pair demonstrates that Citified is expanding its reach at an impressive clip: Sonically and structurally, these songs work from strong risks, whether talking Diaz' formidable bass tone or the way he italicizes his line on the indignant rocker "Pencil Me In" to parallel the guitar's charge. So, guys, while you're expanding, we'd be happy to settle for a first LP and not a fourth LP next time.
You have plenty of chances to see Citified: Citified plays Local 506 with The White Cascade and Basalt Wednesday, June 10. The band plays at 10 p.m. Thursday, June 18, at Tir Na Nog with Gray Young. That show is free. A Friday, June 19, show with Scott Waite Debacle at The Pinhook costs $5 and starts at 10 p.m.