New Heathens 

Hello Disaster

Our little Nate (sniff) is growing up. Not that he hasn't written songs with mature themes before ("When She's Wasted"), but Nate Schweber and his NYC band, New Heathens, have brought authority and focus to their music with their satisfying second release, Hello Disaster.

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Missoula's swivel-hipped favorite son continues to plow the Americana field, writing with a journalist's eye for detail and love of wordplay. The loping anti-suicide ballad "Only Gets Better" rhymes "schadenfreude" with "corduroys," and implores the listener to hang in there by remembering things like masturbation and Playstation 3.

Eric "Roscoe" Ambel (Yayhoos, Bottle Rockets) produced, and the sound is punchier and more consistent than on Heathens Like Me. The twin guitars put the hammer down on rockers like "Feelin' Lucky Again" and "Crybaby." Guitarist Domenick Tiziano's "Responsible," though, lacks the dynamics of most other songs on the album, just lying there like a doomed armadillo on a Texas two-lane. The ho-hum arrangement and Schweber's lackadaisical vocal make it feel mundane.

Much more rewarding is "Thankless War," a sober look at the human cost of pointless overseas conflicts. Schweber's elegiac "Bastard Like Me" closes the album on an artistic high point, but I think the New Heathens' best work still lies ahead of them.

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