In a perfect world, one in which the Mountain Goats and the Hold Steady run in slow motion across fields and inhabit a pastoral bungalow in Denver, Instant Empire would share a literal and figurative home with them. Dripping with ambition and driven by personal history, the five local storytellers craft big ideas into big arrangements while never taking the focus off the stories themselves. Dotted by nuanced rhythm and expertly paced melody, the six songs on this sophomore release narrate brief moments of punch-drunk love, summer ennui, habitual betrayal and the search for personal identity. "It must have been a dream I had," Scotty Sanders sings on "Canyons": "We were swimming in a lake/You were laying in the sand..." And for a brief while, you're dreaming with him — until this song's successors take over with shaken emotions, stirring guitar and urgent crescendos. At its lowest, Heavy Hollow is blunt-force drama. At its highest, it's the next morning.