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The Strugglers

The Latest Rights

(Acuarela; US: 15 Apr 2008; UK: 25 Mar 2008)

Brian Randall Bickford has been recording as The Strugglers for a while now, and the North Carolina-based singer-songwriter has established a folk-tinged and dour indie-rock sound over the years. But, unlike many of his ilk, he avoids getting bogged down in navel gazing. The Latest Rights, his latest album, might also be his best. He maintains his usual ability for slyly catchy melodies and subtly insightful and heartfelt lyrics. But on The Latest Rights his songs have a buoyancy they didn’t always have in the past. Lively drums and an active horn section give songs like “Redeployment” and “Out on the Main Drag” an undeniable life. Bickford’s lyrics, always distilled and nuanced, used to shoulder more weight in his songs. Usually, they were up to the challenge. But on this album, the music holds up its end of the bargain, giving these songs a balance and confidence that makes them pop. Some of his older records fell off into sameness, but this record has a wonderful variety to it, while maintaining a consistency throughout. Bickford has hit his stride here and, considering how good his earlier output was, that is no small feat.

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Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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