For a band that has always seemed preserved in amber, it’s a fitting, if not ideal, scenario for gothic alt-country weirdoes Blanche to be stuck with a finished album and no label to distribute it. V2 Records, the band’s former home, shuttered its doors recently, in time for the band to release the EP What This Town Needs, but too soon for the band’s follow-up to 2004’s If We Can’t Trust the Doctors… to see the light of day (though a little googling reveals the new LP, Little Amber Bottles, is due out in late March on Loose Records). What This Town Needs makes for a decent stopgap EP, but it can’t quite do the heavy lifting required of a full-length album. The band, led by Dan Jon Miller and Tracee Mae Miller, are still capable of approaching the off-kilter, seemingly late-18th-century weirdness that made their debut such a winner, notably on the banjo stomper “Never Again” (the Millers are at their best when they’re reveling in anti-social behavior; here Dan Miller is threatening self-immolation with “Your love will burn out and leave me in pain”). The other studio tracks captured on What This Town Needs are still enchanting, courtesy Tracee’s vocals (see “Scar Beneath the Skin”), but they’re less spooky, and less Blanche-y. It’s hard to say what the change is, or if it’s simply a band evolving naturally, but for the first time, Blanche doesn’t sound like a forgotten wax cylinder recording.
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