It’s not difficult to figure out how Two Gallants, a band who borrow their name from the title of a James Joyce short story, wound up on Conor Oberst’s indie powerhouse Saddle Creek. The San Francisco duo of Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel manufacture nostalgic drum-and-guitar pseudo-Americana angst for the kind of indie fans who preferred Bright Eyes without the new-wave feint of the Faint. On their sophomore disc, What the Toll Tells , the first and best track, “Las Cruces Jail,” begins with the sound of dust and tumbleweed drifting across a windswept desert as Stephens delivers gravelly voiced lyrics detailing men hanging from gallows, the Midwest, shootings, and jails. At their best, Two Gallants can craft ramshackle roustabouts like that. But with many of the tracks here exceeding eight minutes, slower tunes like “Some Slender Rest” and the harmonica-infused “Waves of Grain” wear thin after five. Elsewhere, “16th St. Dozens” is just a sloppy mess of white-knuckled country-punk and misplaced horns. For all of Two Gallants’ good intentions, What the Toll Tells isn’t much more than a gateway to country for indie-rock kids.
Two Gallants + Cold War Kids + Frank Smith | April 27 | Middle East Upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge | 617.864.EAST
On the Web
Two Gallants: http://www.twogallants.com/