MISSING EARTH: Gold, Flour, Salt: LP

With a cover like a ’70s sci-fi paperback run through an AI texture generator, Missing Earth’s debut doesn’t look like an obvious indie rock hit. I definitely wouldn’t have taken it for a direct descendant of Grandaddy’s whimsical lo-fi pop. But that influence is all over this record—especially the contemplative opener “Galaxy,” with cosmically crushing lines like “The Fata Morgana stands/ Massive and grey overhead/ Staring down some future when now/ Doesn’t seem so bad.” There’s so much else going on here, though. The coolest thing about “Gold, Flour, Salt” is how it slips in and out of psychedelia without getting hazy or dull. The melody stays sharp, and the guitars are always swirling toward some mysterious source of tension. And then the smoke clears and a song breaks back into an up-tempo indie rock verse, and you might start to forget how weird things just got. But it’s never long before the next curveball… like the sludgy stoner chugging that bridges “Holy Death” and “Spectrum,” a warbling instrumental that sounds like two ghosts singing to each other. Real cool. Listened to it three times back-to-back. –Indiana Laub (Salinas, [email protected], salinasrecords.com)