In the increasing conceptual and spectacle-laden world of indie music, few bands are willing to simply succeed or fail solely on the strength of their songs. Sybris, a strangely average-looking quartet from Chicago, breaks from its contemporaries on its self-titled 2005 debut with a batch of songs drenched in Smashing Pumpkins power angst and Rilo Kiley pop precision. This dynamic has caused some critics to chide the group for building too obviously on the framework of Nineties alt-pop. But charismatic vocalist Angela Mullenhour drives the songs with a mixture of yowling attitude and wounded charm. Her bandmates match her performance with textures and tones that range from dark jangle pop to atmospheric shoegazer, creating arrangements both epic and efficient. Add it up and you have the rare band that realizes that theatricality and artsy pretensions will never replace sharp and incisive songwriting that cuts across any era.
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