Or, The Whale has a remarkable knack for sounding small. At first glance, this seems a slight to the folksy Bay Area septet, but it's really a testament to their canniness at composition and arrangement. Seven players can get a bit unwieldy, the additions serving to weigh the sound down rather than anchor it, but that couldn't be further than the truth on Or, The Whale's eponymous sophomore album. The sound is lush and full, yet allows for space and subtlety when appropriate. Album opener No Love Blues weaves between the two, with vocal harmonies fading in and out on the chorus as the verses alternate between simple vocals and guitar, and a full band sound with banjo and pedal steel filling in the gaps. Count the Stars is a slow simmer, focused entirely on the amazingly compatible vocals of Alex Robbins and Lindsay Garfield, with bass and drums providing rudimentary structure. Pedal steel lines and simply strummed acoustic guitar barely brush the surface. Even the feedback-heavy Black Rabbit, which does double duty as pseudo-psych and Neil Youngish country stomp, avoids feeling excess. Of course, the group still has seven members, so you never know when things will just explode with sound. With Conrad Ford, Jack Wilson.
Fri., Aug. 14, 9:30 p.m., 2009