If anyone needs reminding why alternative rock was once one of the best things to ever happen to commercial radio, look no further than the Riff Tiffs' Afflictinnitus. Like early R.E.M., these Meyerland teens wear their influences — Explosions in the Sky, Radiohead, maybe some Wilco and Trail of Dead — on their collective sleeve, but they process them with a surprising level of sophistication. This means pleasing melodies and downright beautiful guitar riffs arranged into songs that are organic yet delightfully unpredictable. In "Nightmare," halting guitar chords snap into a gently soaring emo chorus, then a cleverly restrained solo suddenly becomes one of those noodly, echoey things Explosions does all the freaking time. The music stops, and the guitar plays a familiar, but hard to place, arpeggio. Afflictinnitus is rife with these vague recognitions, which come to a head in "Timing Out." Guitarist Curran Rehm's arena-rock solo gels with the band's driving beat to become a chilling blast from another decade. The Riff Tiffs' intelligent music and singer Chris Rehm's pretty voice make them easy to like, but it's this ability to plug into the pop tradition that makes them worth listening to over and over.
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