The all-instrumental “Vesuvius,” a five-minute odyssey that has an improvisational feel, with a nod to the doomcore purveyed by the likes of Ocean and the guitar-focused indie rock of Built to Spill, is probably the most successful song here. It builds into a head-nodding jam and Neilson’s guitar work is inventive. The gypsy-cabaret take on the blues form of “Worried Man” feels fully invested, too, with a thrill that creeps into Neilson’s vocals. They’re feeling it enough that you can grab a vicarious jolt.
“40 More Days,” though, is an emotional mish-mash. Is it supposed to be bouncy and fun or plaintive and melancholy? There’s a melody like wishing they could all be California Girls on an abandoned boardwalk with plastic bags blowing around in a cold breeze. “All that I can do is just pray that I get back on track,” Neilson sings, but just how many degrees off the straight and narrow did he ever get in the first place?
The net sum may be an album that’s more interesting than it is enjoyable. It’s not a sing-along piece, as some of Rural Ghosts’ first efforts implied they might grow into, but the album does command some attention and carves out new ground locally. You haven’t heard a cello featured this way and so prominently, and on that your opinion of the album will likely hinge.
CITY OF ELMS | Released by Rural Ghosts | with Johnny Cremains + Aquanauts | at the Big Easy, in Portland | Oct 4 | LoremIpsumRecordings.com