DEAD TO ME : Moscow Penny Ante: CD

A return to form of sorts. A lineup shift from their last LP, African Elephants, has resulted in a more straight forward, yet beefed up sound this time around. The addition of guitarist/vocalist Sam Johnson and his more melodic voice to complement Chicken’s, and guitarist Ken Yamazaki brings the band back to a sound more reminiscent of Dead to Me’s Cuban Ballerina period. “Undertow,” “Monarch Hotel,” and “I Love My Problems” are among some of the best songs the band has turned out. The Sam-sung “No Lullabies” is an interesting diversion, as it sounds like a lost Cock Sparrer track from Shock Troops. Lyrically, “The Hand with Inherited Rings” is perhaps the band’s most melancholy track, with its narrative of spending time with a close acquaintance (Mother? Wife? Sister?) with a terminal illness. All in all, the band has tightened the screws up again, which makes for a strong release. Totally worth checking out.

 –Adrian Salas (Fat)