Boston-based music group Willard Grant Conspiracy sure knows how to make a music critic's job tough. Whereas most bands can be blithely described with a few words, WGC practically requires a new genre tag. Stylistically, it's got strong folk-rock and rootsy overtones but isn't exactly Americana. Instead, WGC couches the disquieting angst of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen in the baroque-like elegance of Belle & Sebastian at their most melancholic. Lead singer Robert Fisher's smooth, contemplative baritone has a winning straightforwardness mingled with world-weariness and suspicion. On the ditty "Flying Low," he croons, "And I dreamed I saw the angels flying low/They encompass all that's good, or so I'm told." The album is lent orchestral savor by the regal-sounding violin/viola of Josh Hillman and the yearning trumpet of guest Dennis Cronin. Rendering Roll more cathartic than depressing is WGC's occasional forays into wrenching rockin' dissonance à la Roxy Music and John Cale-era Velvet Underground. Dylan fans may not like the droll, thundering rendition of his "Ballad of a Thin Man." With WGC, it appears that glum is good.
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