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John Ralston

With his second solo disc — after previously helming local outfit Legends of Rodeo — Florida homeboy John Ralston builds on the strength of his critically acclaimed debut, Needle Bed. He has created something akin to a seminal milestone. Finding the perfect mix of attitude and ambiance, Ralston crafts a sound that begs an instant connection — rich, textured, atmospheric anthems imbued with brooding discontent. But he isn't your typical emo underdog; instrumental overdubs and an agitated underbelly give Sorry Vampire a heady mystique as affecting and provocative as its title implies. Unlike his good pal and labelmate Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional), with whom he frequently tours, Ralston merges his downcast gaze with loftier ambitions. "I Guess I Wasted My Summer Now" betrays his fondness for Brian Wilson's bedroom symphonies and soothing harmonies. The closing track, "Where You Used to Sleep," reflects a certain Beatle's fascination for the droning Mellotrons, guiding the song into its final fade. Whether effusive (the exuberant "Ghetto Tested," the anthemic "No One Loves You Like I Do"), or elusive (the troubled "The Only Evidence," the achingly ethereal "Beautiful Disarmed"), Ralston never settles for self-absorption. Instead he opts for a grand statement both sumptuous and sublime.

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Lee Zimmerman

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