Over the Rhine - Long Surrender
Great Speckled Dog
After 23 years under the radar, Ohio's Over the Rhine have earned the right to relax a bit. Multi-instrumentalist Linford Detweiler and guitarist-singer Karin Bergquist's tenth album is less overtly passionate than its predecessor, The Trumpet Child, but no less pleasurable. As ever, the band crafts obliquely pretty, sensual folk-pop for grown-ups: too delicate and traditional to be alternative, too stark and playful to be MOR. The niche they've carved allows disparate influence — the astounding "Sharpest Blade" is as suggestive of Stevie Wonder as Lucinda Williams, who guests on the wonderful "Undamned" — and allows a refreshing subservience to songcraft and performance. A foggy folk atmosphere like "Rave On" takes full advantage of its open-armed beauty and eccentricity without compromise. It's the sound of studio pop unfettered by outside concerns, commercial ones least of all. The result is an ideal background album for late-night confusion. Even more so than the careful arrangements, the key is Bergquist's haunting, enveloping "bebop apocalypse" croon — still easy to get lost in, and still worth the trip.