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Wednesday, January 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Overcast
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Bishop Allen: Grrr...
(Dead Oceans)

Harvard is an incubator for people who become wildly successful in medicine, law, politics, science and business. Indie rock, though, isn't its forte. That said, Justin Rice and Christian Rudder may be the university's most hip-and-happening alumni thanks to their roles in two well-received indie films by former roomie Andrew Bujalski (2002's Funny Ha Ha and 2006's Mutual Appreciation). It's their band Bishop Allen's third full-length album, however, that seems the coolest, perhaps because they've stopped trying so hard.

Bishop Allen's knowledge of indie rock's building blocks has always seemed term-paper encyclopedic. Whether they could feel the music was another matter. While their first two albums wavered between topnotch pop melodies and awkward efforts at lo-fi swagger, Grrr... gets the balance right.

"Dimmer" kicks off the album with a bouncy, Pernice Brothers-style wooing tune rich in violins and sing-along melodies, while "The Lion & the Teacup" ventures into Latin rhythms with vocals that seem distilled from the Beatles' White Album. "South China Moon" takes a cue from Wilco's "Kamera" and launches into one of the group's hardest-rocking moments, followed by bits of Magnetic Fields- and Beirut-style chamber pop to lull things to a close without stumbling through the clichés of twee pop.

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