Secret Cities: Strange Hearts  

Western Vinyl

Sometimes a mallet can do more than beat chicken fillets into submission. Occasionally, it's the essential ingredient in an already-virtuosic experimental psych-pop band's rhythmic impact. Fargo, N.D.'s Secret Cities uses mallets to complement the dual lead-vocal duties deftly executed by Charlie Gokey and MJ Parker. The hard-hitting doesn't stop there. Rarely has such a multitalented group of musicians made such an emotional piece of art so welcoming. Even if this sophomore record falls just short of the rock-opera scope of Pink Graffiti, the group's 2010 debut LP, Strange Hearts is a testament to the fact that ecstatic pop doesn't have to be simple or single-minded. With lush orchestration that avoids sounding obtuse, Secret Cities always has something spectacular up its collective sleeve. (4 out of 5 stars)

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