Tin Star's Bettie Lane | Record Review | Indy Week
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Tin Star's Bettie Lane 

(Fractured Discs)

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The six-song debut from Durham quartet Tin Star comes in as a rustle, its chiming guitar refracted through the thick rhythm section of the title track, "Bettie Lane," like leaves gliding around tall, stately oaks. When, 30 seconds in, the fair-voiced Jamie Miyares joins, she suggests sheets of silk in the breeze, her balanced tone and careful temperament floating up, content within the rest of the band's atmosphere. Even on "Socially Distressed," the most aggressive and angular chunk of these 24 minutes, Miyares elides the anxiety within her lyrics—"I have almost lost my mind/ My mind is now undressed"—and clings instead to the calmer side of her understanding.

Throughout, Tin Star diffuses its themes just so, letting little hum-worthy hooks bounce around the room—never too immediate, never too aggressive, always there, just at the horizon. "Beyond," for instance, sounds like a hard piano popper viewed through sepia-toned shades, the hard edges of the guitar and keyboard softened until they surrender to the wash of the steady rhythm. And "Arizona" is a would-be rock anthem soaking up and warmed by the rays of its own orbit. Radiating electric guitar tones bounce throughout the mix. As quickly, the beats suck them back down, keeping the song hemmed in, bouncing forward.

That idea—to keep things spartan and well-spaced—can be as mesmerizing as it can frustrating: Though the songs are certainly strong and the band achieves exactly the precision the music demands, the result sometimes passes by too much like that rustle. It doesn't have the textural richness and weight of, say, The Clientele, whose similarly drifting tunes counter superficial simplicity with big basslines and sonics that interlock like clouds. On "False Friends," the record's best tune, the band even seems to acknowledge this. The music moves between a wisp and a near-roar, the guitar falling in and out of distortion, the drumsticks sometimes slapping harder. It stops just short of the catharsis of post-emo Scottish bands The Twilight Sad or Frightened Rabbit, though, shirking the violence and quench of a storm for the balm of that placid wind.

Tin Star plays The Cave with Pipe Friday, July 17.

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