This atmospheric approach to folk-pop is fascinating, but only when the songs keep up with it.
Norwegian Arms is a curious new duo, comprising of mandolinist/vocalist Brendan Mulvihill and percussionist Eric Slick (of Dr. Dog). The two combine mandolin with spare drums and flourishes of keyboard to present a new, buffed-to-shine take on folk-pop. It's a brisk set they give us on Wolf Like a Stray Dog, from the frenzied rise-and-fall of "And Then I Found Myself in the Taiga" to the eccentric, snapping chaos of the title track to the sweet melodies of "Tired of Being Cold". At its best, this set gives us a lively sound, one that gets the blood pumping without forgetting about deep hooks and solid choruses. Much of this, with its keys and gossamer atmosphere, can lose itself in its own energy, though. The quick beats pile up on each other, and all of a sudden the band feels like its rushing through "She Lives in a Secret Town" or forcing themselves to slow down on the clatter of "Proof of an Art Object". In the end, the band returns to the same well with their spare elements too often, and Mulvihill's rangy vocals -- try though they might -- can't keep things moving. The approach is fascinating here, but only when the songs keep up with it.