The Court & Spark freely bleed a peculiar type of alt-country soul, staining their songs with a dark tension and a loose, rambling feel. It’s a fascinating dichotomy that powers Hearts, a sinuous, expansive record that achieves a strange sort of balance by fusing West Coast country with shimmering sci-fi pop. The San Francisco-based sextet has fashioned a critically acclaimed, if criminally overlooked oeuvre of rootsy, rock-flecked albums that casually amble across sonic boundaries to often subtly powerful effect. Hearts opens with the slow-burn “Let’s Get High,” which segues into “We Were All Uptown Rulers,” an improbably delicate piece of electronic-filigreed pop that evokes barroom twilight, thanks in part to M.C. Taylor’s implacable lead vocals. Fans of the dearly departed Grandaddy, as well as Calexico and My Morning Jacket aficionados will recognize a lot of what’s offered here; The Court & Spark don’t try to outgun anyone, but rather confidently color outside the lines on their own terms. Hearts bend but don’t break and if there’s any justice, this won’t be the last time you hear about The Court & Spark in 2006.
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