Blonde Redhead

Goodbye skronky art-noise, hello lush dream-pop! Such a makeover worked wonders for Mercury Rev, and now Blonde Redhead has fully embraced its collective inner softie on Misery is a Butterfly, the band's sixth studio album. The transformation might not be quite as jarring to steady followers of the New York-based trio -- 2000's Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons hinted at the group's desire to escape the angular tension of its Sonic Youth cocoon -- but others may find Blonde Redhead as unrecognizable as a long-lost pal who resurfaces with a dramatic new dye job and 'do.

"Messenger," for example, delivers layers of dramatic reverb, spacious guitar textures, and plucked violins beneath Amedeo Pace's yearning croon, a stylistic hybrid of Rev's Jonathan Donahue and Sigur Rós's Jonsi Birgisson. And when Kazu Makino takes the mike for the similarly fragile "Anticipation" and the maudlin, string-drenched title track, her gossamer falsetto is more a parallel to Pace than their marked counterpoint of albums past. Still with plenty of other acts clawing at the chaotic No Wave aesthetic, Blonde Redhead's departure to otherworldly realms is quite welcome.

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Michael Alan Goldberg