It's nice to see that the 1900s kept their shit together despite the intramural romantic implosion vaguely referred to in their press release. It's even nicer how the Chicago gathering's sophomore effort wanders away from the hazardous Fleetwood-Mac-meets-Ra-Ra-Riot territory of 2007's Cold & Kind. Return of the Century settles somewhere in an enchanted forest where the trees can be tapped for pure pop instead of maple syrup. Apart from "Overreactin,' " which sounds as if Stevie Nicks had written a cheesy song and manipulated the 1900s into recording it for her own dark amusement, the new release maintains an elegant, meditative, folksy chill throughout. Highlights include the effortless wash of "Kidnap Runaway" and any song with the bass mixed too loud. The inspiration for "I'm not so sorry that I took you along, you only saw me naked once" is said to have come from the indefinite vision quest of Licorice McKechnie of late-'60s folk revivalists the Incredible String Band. According to dubious legends, she disappeared into the Arizona desert sometime around 1990, never to be seen again. This is somewhat counter-intuitive. Everything feels dead in the desert, but Return is rife with life.
The 1900s + TUNNG | Middle East upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge | November 14 at 9 pm | 18 + | $10 | 617.864.3278 or mideastclub.com