From their name (lifted from "The Black Angel's Death Song") to their sound, there's little doubt that Austin's The Black Angels adore the Velvet Underground. Indeed, the first song childhood chums front man Alex Maas and guitarist Christian Bland ever performed together live was "Waiting for the Man." And, while their hooky, fuzzed-out amble owes a debt to the Velvets, one would be remiss not to mention shoegazers Spacemen 3 in describing the Angels' sound as well, as their narcotic swirls of noise and hemorrhaging atmosphere are an equally prominent component. After creating a stir with their stunning 2006 debut, Passover, and maintaining momentum on 2008's Directions to See a Ghost, the Angels wanted to break new territory with their third LP, last year's Phosphene Dream. Recorded for the first time with a producer — Dave Sardy (Hot Hot Heat, Wolfmother) — the new album tinkers around the edges without losing the central thread. There's more melody, harmony and vibrancy to shake the arrangements out of their hazy distortion-drenched torpor. The 10 tracks are more distinctive, resisting a tendency to blur into one another. But while the music's brighter, the lyrical tone isn't ("Bad Vibrations," "River of Blood," "The Sniper"). "We're normal people and care where the world is headed," explains Maas. "We try to describe how we see the world, and sometimes it's shocking."
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