The concept is really intriguing—a real lit-rock band, tied in to the NYC McSweeny’s scene—and brings to mind a kind of bohemian idyll where One Ring Zero members Michael Hearts and Joshua Camp sit around the fire with Dave Eggers and Jonathan Lethem and Paul Auster and tell each other stories and set them to music. On their latest album, though, One Ring Zero comes across more as a sub-par parody of the Decemberists than a vital, different perspective. The band likes to use all-sing-together choruses—in “Three Quarters Late” they sound like Willy Mason—and the junkyard orchestral circus of Beirut, though they come off pallid in comparison. There are some solid songs here, and alt-country influences waft over many of the songs, providing a touchstone that’s at least different from the lit-folk we know well already. And at their best, like on “A Moving World”, the band captures a feeling—here, the ever-turning, uncaring world—in beautifully layered, repeat-rocking strings, accordion tide, and subtly cut-up vocals. But when the band really gets into it they become self-parodying: “Sad Carousel” is melancholy circus music, and the sing-through-the-megaphone trick makes the song seem hokey, like the soundtrack to a schlock horror film.
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