The latest offering from Los Angelesís reigning kings of rock lethargy (now making tiny Chicago indie Buzz Records its home) may be the groupís most understated work to date. Forgoing much of the rich, four-stringed guitar interplay that marked the bandís previous releases, Alas finds Idaho mainstay Jeff Martin whittling his somber ruminations down to their barest, most fragile sonic elements, voice and electric guitar, while occasionally tempering them with additional bits of atypical instrumentation, such as violin, bassoon, synthesizer loops and a female voice. The resulting mini-album (just over a half-hour in length) maintains the same sense of stark, forlorn beauty that has become synonymous with Idahoís work, but drapes it in slightly different shades of emotional and musical gray.

Colin Helms