The Belle Jar

When Ryan James recorded 2011's Fall Systems Go under the Belle Jar moniker, he handled all of the vocals and all of the instruments. Since then, the project has grown into a six-piece; fittingly, for the recently released Union Station, the group took a collaborative approach to writing. As a result, the disc feels more ambitious and fleshed out than its predecessor. Whereas many of the tracks on Fall Systems Go felt deliberate and labored over, Union Station brims with a lot more energy, especially on songs like "Window Panes," the lively title track and the wonderfully catchy "Houses." But while James and company have no trouble digging in and rocking out, the outfit is equally compelling on the indie-folk ballad "Scotland" and the heartfelt closer, "One Down the Hill."

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