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International Affairs

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Album Review

Dan Owens and Josie Fluri were in the angular rock outfit Register before departing Denver for Orlando and creating New Roman Times. International Affairs still has an early-'90s indie sensibility — harsh guitars often ring alongside tension wire melodies — but New Roman Times always work to craft a more dynamic sound. They integrate keyboard and electronic percussion add-ons, use Fluri's calming vocal as a foil to Owens' hyper upper-register wail, and keep the songs structurally unpredictable. "Absolute Beginners," for example, is a jagged sort of ballad — giant drums crash and alter speed as the guitars uncover urgency in the spiny progression and Owens works through a relationship in the second person. Modest Mouse feels like a touchstone for this and other tracks on International Affairs ("Reversion Therapy"; "Consequences"). But this is because both groups like to keep their melodies challenging. "Dis-Viscount" has a standard punchy backbeat, but Owens' voice echoes ever higher to drive it to a unique place. Fluri takes the lead for the first half of the elastic, gently-layered "Going Away Gift," while on "Scene From the Disco Era" she plays off Owens and a great arrangement that suggests vintage Archers of Loaf. Overall it's a solid debut for New Roman Times. They understand that hooks are always just a terse guitar lick away.

International Affairs, New Roman Times
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