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Pretty Girls Make Graves 

Elan Vital (Matador)

Some listeners will interpret the Girls' third disc as the sort of mainstream move currently being attempted by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but the alterations in their sound seem inspired more by creative concerns than by commercial calculation. Instead of replacing former guitarist Nathan Thelen with another axe-wielder, the players recruited keyboardist-vocalist Leona Marrs, whose presence smoothes some of the group's rough edges without flattening its personality. Lead singer Andrea Zollo can still whip up a verbal squall, as she does throughout "The Nocturnal House" and toward the conclusion of "Selling the Wind," which also features Marrs' melodica and stirring ahh-ahh-ahhs from the band's boys. This time around, though, Zollo seems most interested in the intricacies of the tunes, be they lyrical (like the references to "esteem's corpse" and "Stygian shores" in "Pyrite Pedestal") or musical (check out the dramatic arrangement of "Pictures of a Night Scene"). Vital isn't as visceral as the combo's early work, but it's just as memorable.

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More by Michael Roberts

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