Like these songs, which are layered on top of driving beats, but are often ultimately introspective and languid in their guitar and vocal delivery.

"Everybody, Hey" is particularly pretty, with Erin McKeown (echoing Spouse's "Underwater") on accompanying vocals and a gritty guitar that sometimes seems to break the limits of the recording medium. There's a repeating beeping sound like an alarm, which somehow remains musical, and a late guitar solo that's penetrating, contrasted with a delicate piano bit repeating in the back, gradually moving toward the front of the mix near the song's finish.

It's a song of frustration and not-quite-rebellion. "You tell me when to talk and then you shut me up" Ayerve and McKeown sing in tandem, so that the accusations face each other. "You show me how to move and then you say, 'don't move.'"

Like the sexting, like these skittish digital beats, there is intent and there is commitment. Where does A Severe Joy stand? Well, the last song here is "Never Will I Make My Move," languid and narcotic, beats building in all kinds of urgency that's never equaled by the vocals.

"I Need You Close"? Now we hear, "let's not get too close." Maybe there will be a rethinking of that whole sexting thing, as well. But A Severe Joy seems like something Ayerve can commit to.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached at

A SEVERE JOY | Released by A Severe Joy | at Slainte, in Portland | Dec 10 |

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