The scatterbrained, deconstructionist folk-rock created by Ohtis is a study in contrasts. Crisp, serene strings and soothing vocal melodies flank intense layers of instrumentation and harmony, like a more deliberate and less overdriven Neutral Milk Hotel, or Frank Zappa with a little bit longer attention span. The songs on the Normal, Illinois, band's new album, If This Country Had a Heart, That's Where I Was Born, display a rare combination of concise premeditation and occasional madness. "Sugar Babe" — a smart commentary on young men, money and gender roles in today's society — starts with several fluttering acoustic guitar lines and builds into a frenetic blast of noise that through headphones sounds like a maniacal drumline flying past one's head. But it's the delicate breaths of fresh air between the spazz-outs that really make this music work so well.
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