The Casket Lottery

Survival Is for Cowards (Second Nature)

The stormy one-two punch ("Code Red," "What I Built Last Night") that opens the Casket Lottery's third full-length runs a gamut of rock styles, making shape-shifting noise that hits like a Whippit-induced head rush. Singer and guitarist Nate Ellis, bassist Stacy Hilt and drummer Nathan "Junior" Richardson lock together like Krazy Glue, crafting a voluminous downpour that pays tribute to everyone from Kill Creek to Shiner to Smashing Pumpkins to the Beatles without imitating any of them. Ed Rose's meticulous production drips with Red House paint: Layers of chiming and fuzz-tone guitars elbow for room amid complex sonic backdrops and Richardson's distinctive drum sound. Songbird Julia Shields turns in a knockout guest appearance on the airy "Leaving Town," pairing perfectly with Ellis and company's clip-clopping acoustic musings.

Vocally, Ellis tends to follow the music's cartwheeling lead, but his guttural shrieks are never as convincing as his regular voice. Still, the Kansas City band does the whisper-to-roar thing with more conviction than anyone, and at just less than 34 minutes, Survivalis smart enough to leave listeners wanting more.

 
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