"I don't care" are the first words out of Scott Kannberg's mouth on Preston School of Industry's second album. Given his provenance -- co-guitarist for überslacker indie pioneer Pavement -- you might be tempted to believe him. But you shouldn't. Unlike the conspicuously clever postrock deconstructions that characterized his work with Stephen Malkmus and the gang, Kannberg's creations on Monsoon are simple and sincere, even moving. They're also surprisingly countrified. The openers, "The Furnace Sun" and "Walk of a Gurl," are rootsy, late-afternoon grooves fueled by acoustic guitar and pedal-steel. But they're not without wry lyrical touches. The spirit of early R.E.M. infuses the uptempo folk-rock of "Caught in the Rain," helped in part by a cameo from the Minus Five's Scott McCaughey. Wilco even showed up in Kannberg's Seattle basement studio to assist on the demented "Get Your Crayons Out!" With disjointed stabs of warbly guitar and pots-and-pans percussion, the two-chord romp suggests Pavement posing as a jug band, or maybe just stoner kids toying with a four-track. But songs such as "So Many Ways," a sober lament for Bush's America, stay closer to the prevailing spirit of the album. Singing that there are "so many ways to lie" over piano, quiet strumming and ghostly slide notes, Kannberg risks feelings that would have been impossible with his old band. Clearly, he cares.
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