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Pinback affirms that music created just for the thrill of it, under no self-consciousness or pressure to sell records, can be just as catchy as anything on commercial radio. When guitarist/vocalist Rob Crow and bassist/vocalist Armistead Burwell Smith IV took advantage of free time from other musical projects in their San Diego stomping grounds to come up with Pinback, a brilliant beacon of light suddenly lit up in the cold, dull sea that is pop music.

Their 1999 self-titled debut unintentionally garnered much industry attention for the pair. Indie labels scrambled to sign the group to recording contracts as the music press and college radio embraced them. National Public Radio produced an on-air review of the album, and Urban Outfitters placed it in rotation in its chain of trendy shops. Two years later Pinback's follow-up, Blue Screen Life, sees the duo continue its lovably dense sound, creating an album that deserves as much attention as the last, if not more.

Pinback's songs can be at once pure and simple yet daring and intricate. One of the duo's secret weapons is its intricately constructed vocal harmonies. Crow's tenor swings smoothly between high and low octaves, weaving around Smith's nearly feminine alto. The two trade verses on the opening track, "Offline P.K.," providing the perfect complement to crisp, dual guitar and keyboard melodies that overlap each other, quickly establishing that this album will push the limits set by their previous one. And with "Prog," Pinback shucks the shell of pretension and creates a light, captivating brand of complex art rock. It didn't seem possible, but Pinback has indeed succeeded in presenting a collection of songs that overshadows its astounding debut, indicating there can only be better things to come.

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Hans Morgenstern has contributed to Miami New Times for too many decades, but he's grown to love Miami's arts and culture scene because of it. He is the chair of the Florida Film Critics Circle, and most of his film criticism can be found on Independent Ethos ( if not in New Times.

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