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STANDOUT TRACK: No. 8, “If the Shadow Suits You,” the ghost story on an album of campfire songs and lullabies. Vocalist Nikki West, 27, delivers meaningless phrases in a singsong while backed by an acoustic-guitar strum. Just before the chorus, a distorted electric guitar breaks the song’s surface with an ominous minor chord. West adds to the disquiet by shifting into lucid, moody lyrics: “Bright the moon shines slightly/Casting ghosts on the breeze.”
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MUSICAL MOTIVATION: West, who lives in Blacksburg, Va., wrote the song with the rest of her quartet while holed up last year in a farmhouse in the Shenandoahs. Sometimes things got claustrophobic, she says, but “if you got frustrated with something, you didn’t have to stay there with it. You could go for a walk.” Those moonlit hikes inspired the mood and lyrics of “Shadow.”
LET’S GIVE A WELCOME TO MARACA: The song, however, refused to gel in the surroundings that inspired it. Having few neighbors to disturb caused Mike Scutari, 29, to play a hard-driving drum beat. Guitarist John Passmore, 29, followed suit with a wall of electric-guitar noise, and West found herself shouting just to be heard. The result, says Scutari, “just didn’t feel right at all.” They gave it a second chance when mixing the record in a Richmond studio. As they played “Shadow” in a claustrophobic, windowless room—with Scutari gently shaking some maracas—the track’s spooky roots re-emerged as if summoned in a séance. “The song we hated the most…ended up being one of our favorites,” says West. —Sadie Dingfelder