Eric Bailly is a Denver-by-way-of-North Dakota songwriter, and when he calls his debut CD Colder Than Fargo, you get the impression he knows what he's talking about. His home town of Fargo, after all, lies on a plain that was once the bottom of a glacial lake, and the Red River that runs through it is one of the few in the continental United States that flow into the frozen north. Likewise, the music on his disc sounds etched in frost rather than burned with a laser. Captured in a single afternoon at Swallow Hill's Sawtelle Studio, a haven for Americana, the album nonetheless shies from the strains of traditional folk and settles on a wistful shade of acoustic indie rock that drops hints of Low, old REM, maybe even Bonnie Prince Billy stripped of his faux-naif twang. The recording flutters with shivery reverb and the sound of fingers slipping wearily from string to string, as withdrawn and forlorn as, well, a guy sitting by himself in a room taping his songs. On "Analyzation," one of the disc's more appropriately titled cuts, Bailly strums like a shut-in and serenades his feet with the lines "I know it won't be long before the final curtain of life/Goes through me like a knife." And with the lyrics to "Post 9/11" -- "The world around me falls apart at the whim of decisions" -- it's hard to tell if Bailly is speaking literally about the World Trade Center attack or using it as a metaphor for some other, more intimate cataclysm. Either way, the effect is chilling -- no small feat after the last two years' desensitizing blitz of September 11 songs. As if in response to the accumulated ugliness and chaos of reality, Bailly leaves a directive to the listener in the liner notes of Colder Than Fargo: "Eric strongly encourages you to close out the rest of the world and use headphones while listening to this CD." With the deafening, enveloping isolation of his music, though, the headphones aren't even necessary.