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Nearly a year after their debut EP's release, Long Beach's Free Lions have returned with a new five song effort, with the band's moodily energetic approach intact and finding some new ways to go about their business. Kicking off with the jangling twang of "Float Like Ghosts," which suits the sunset cover art to a T, lead singer and guitarist Shayne Fee has a bit of higher pitched new wave nervousness to start with, but his deep, Lee Hazlewood-tinged speak-singing on "Come On Back" is what really grabs the attention.
The band's full arrangement is right there with him, starting with the bass and building up to slow, blasting drums, a snaky blend of guitar and keyboards that builds to a dramatic climax and a general feeling that could be a new soundtrack for the underrated neo-Western/vampire movie Near Dark.
The remaining three songs range from the quick "Everyone You Know," blending both a brisk, almost chipper verse with slow, show-stopping choruses, Fee's spotlight turned backed by haunting wordless croons from Shayne's sister and fellow vocalist Jocelyn, to the concluding "Dogs," showcasing pianist Emily McConnell's work at the start before shifting into a seven-minute-plus arrangement that actually doesn't feel like a timekiller, always a crucial touch. (The way that they use another slow build to a louder and faster pace -- twice over the song's length! -- shows that they may rely a bit on something approaching formula, admittedly, but they do it very well nonetheless.)
"New Georgia" similarly takes a little time to fully rev up, but it also gives Jocelyn her own vocal lead moment this time around, with the unexpected touch being the glaze of near Cocteau Twins-level guitar shimmer on the choruses. Combined with her increasingly louder and brilliantly powerful turn as the song progresses, the result is breathtaking down to the final gentle keyboard drone and fadeout. It's a nice way to twist expectations and create a gently compelling new synthesis, and whets the appetite easily for whatever the group might want to try next -- here's to a full length effort in the near future.