What to make of an album that kicks off with a cello solo? Given the fact that Dolorean nicks its name from legendary maverick automaker John Delorean, the band's unusual intro might seem understandable. With a hushed shoegazer approach that mirrors such melancholy forebears as British troubadour Nick Drake and the late Elliott Smith (both of whom allegedly committed suicide), this Portland, Oregon-based band seems to revel in its dirgelike delivery.

Depressing? Yeah, kind of ... but a glance at Dolorean's list of influences helps explain its downcast demeanor. According to the band's bio, its listening stack includes the Band's Music From Big Pink, Neil Young's Harvest, and yes, Drake's hallowed Pink Moon. The aptly titled Not Exotic echoes a similar sense of sobriety via its swaying rhythms, the understated arrangements, and laconic vocals that are practically riddled with despair. The tortured "Hannibal, MO" finds its narrator recounting the death of his lover, though it's unclear whether it was due to murder or some other mishap. What should be a song of celebration -- "So You're a Touring Band Now" -- comes across as a tearstained letter ("When you finally come home don't be surprised if there's rust in my throat and red in my eyes").

In fact desperation and despair are indelibly inscribed in each of these bittersweet laments, permeating the entire album with an air of sadness and resignation. Like its namesake, Dolorean finds that failed dreams often arise from grand ambitions. While Not Exotic seems as unassuming as the title implies, its haunting beauty lingers long after the last notes fade away.

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Lee Zimmerman