Three years after releasing its self-titled debut album on Saddle Creek, Now It's Overhead (with Statistics on Wednesday, April 7, at Rock Island) returns with its stylistically diverse, bleak pop follow-up, Fall Back Open, an ideal companion for a cold, endless winter night or the damp dawn of a summer morning. The new effort melds synthy, new-wave paeans to pain with acoustic guitar ballads and Southern-tinged goth rock (think Fields of the Nephilim) to create a challenging yet accessible work of stunning ambition.
The brainchild of Athens, Georgia, studio whiz Andy LeMaster, Now It's Overhead also features vocals, bass, trumpets and keyboards from Azure Ray's Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor, and the drumming of LeMaster's childhood friend, Clay Leverett. Highlights on Fall include the mesmerizing title track -- featuring backing vocals by Saddle Creek labelmate and indie darling Conor Oberst -- and the Morricone-esque "Antidote," with Michael Stipe singing backup, and beautiful cello and violin sections by Viktor Uzur and Andrej Kurti.
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Throughout Fall Back Open, LeMaster's gift for dark poetry and even darker melodies creates an atmosphere in which Joy Division meets R.E.M. in an opium den inside a consumer-electronics trade show. It is dramatic without being melodramatic, sinister without being silly. Ultimately, Fall Back Open is captivating and complex electro-goth rock for grownups.