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Using pastoral English countryside colors to paint a scene of serenity, Washington, D.C.'s Phaser transcends the continental divide, adopting the sparkle of brethren like Suede and Oasis. The resemblance is particularly striking on tracks like "Life and Illusion," where elevated choruses mesh with the cascading harmonies of brothers/vocalists Boris and Siayko Skalsky, whose psychedelic guitar styles come across as distinctively Brit-popish. Then there's the band's darker side of Americana, gazing down at its steel toes on "Baby Blue," where weeping pianos gently cast a shadow on the six-string acoustics that punctuate the melancholy. Looming synthesizers shed even more drama in an already darkened musical episode on "Are You There?" and the instrumental "Northern Light," whose spacey qualities are draped in ethereal gauze. A tinge of country twang -- both musically and vocally -- makes its mark on "Sweet Marie," although its drawl isn't overly noticeable. The same goes for the gospel choir's rising choruses toward the title track's end. That track then gets submerged in the murkiness of the subsequent, lovelorn "(Can't Get You) Out of My Mind," which floats over slow passages that are as dreamy as they are haunting. Sway, Phaser's sophomore effort, is as mysterious as it is familiar and as saddening as it is enlightening.
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Omar Perez

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