MIDDLE CHILDREN: Earth Angel: LP

Within the first minute of “Baby Boom,” the wistful male-female vocals jubilantly erupt into a percussive, upbeat jaunt; winning me over. Then I read the insert and discovered that Patrick Jennings (Hot New Mexicans, Purple 7) and Ginger Alford (Good Luck, High Dive, One Reason) comprise the heart and soul of Middle Children. That’s when my hair blew back. Both Jennings and Alford, who plays drums, are low-key songwriting legends, and it’s totally acceptable to have any one of their bands be your favorite band. Middle Children is no exception. Although more understated and country-tinged than Purple 7 and Good Luck, songs like “True” and “No Shock There” linger, their hooks slowly sinking in and taking hold. On “Shit,” Jennings plaintively sings, “You’re not washed up my friend / I don’t think you’re wrong always,” nearly verging on Mount Eerie and Wilco levels of devastation. “Sister,” with its downpicked guitar and harmonizing lead, presents a more driving but equally introspective Middle Children: “I want to remember that my sister is still here and okay.” But the pièce de résistance is closer “Woods,” which boasts Matt Tobey’s (Good Luck) additional guitar wizardry and a high-spirited chorus that swells until the song abruptly ends. I’m glad I knew nothing about this record before I dropped the needle because I haven’t been this pleasantly surprised in a long time. –Sean Arenas (Let’s Pretend, letspretendrecords.com)