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JANUARY

Poptones

Like former Slowdive frontman Neil Halstead, ex-Jupiter singer-guitarist Simon McLean grew up to be a cowboy. But unlike Halstead’s Mojave 3, whose last couple of albums have aped Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds and Nashville Skyline-era Dylan as if shoegazing never happened, McLean’s January joins its vintage country-rock twang to a wombadelic whoosh straight outta 1991. The twang comes mostly from David Ogilvy’s uncomplicated pedal-steel work, the whoosh mostly from McLean’s overdriven electric six-string. I Heard Myself in You, January’s debut long-player, is heftiest when the two compete for dominance, as on “I Heard Myself in You (Part 2)” and “Falling In,” the album’s spectacular penultimate track, a kaleidoscopic, desert-baked epic that shuttles between quiet restraint and wall-of-sound abandon. But the album’s lighter songs—especially the delicate “Invisible Lines,” the slinky “Eyes All Mine,” and the ghostly “Fused”—can be just as packed with incident. Indeed, much of the record spins out the same sort of lush, atmospheric psychedelia practiced by Paisley Undergrounders Opal and the Rain Parade: McLean’s gauzy vocals nestle among twinkling, shimmering, jangling, soaring, vaguely trippy acoustic and electric guitars and uncluttered percussion; throughout, ex-Seefeel vocalist Sarah Peacock adds sparkling instrumental filigree with slide guitar, piano, and Hammond organ. Along with McLean’s talent for writing sweeping melodies and Mads Bjerke’s meticulous, clear-as-a-bell production, her playing elevates I Heard Myself in You’s songs from standard retro-rock exercises to luxuriant, satisfying little symphonies.

—Leonard Roberge