New Radiant Storm King

The sixth album by Northampton, Mass., trio New Radiant Storm King glimmers with psychedelic guitar and gorgeous vocals and harmonies, all enhanced by crystal-clear production that practically puts the drums and bass in your lap. The music glides effortlessly from soothing to edgy and rocking, incorporating artsy distorto blasts and dynamics recalling bands from Pell Mell to the Beatles, Elliot Smith and Dinosaur Jr.—whose front man, J Mascis, lent equipment for this recording. (Perhaps some of the ghosts of early Dino Jr. infiltrated the recording tape, because the songs here have strong ties to the sound of the early days of indie rock, before every band became compared to either Pavement or Nirvana.) Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices has credited NRSK as a major influence on his songwriting, and listening to the title track, “Winter’s Kill,” one can imagine that it is GBV.

On the song “Constellation Prize,” NRSK experiments with trippy beats and imaginative production techniques (like fuzzed-out bass drum), and it works well, but the best material on this album seems less self-conscious. The outstanding track, “Viejo,” is the kind of song that, if put on a mix tape, will cause wear and tear from being constantly rewound and repeated.

It’s been three years since the last NRSK release, as the members also contribute to bands Wharton Tiers and Pernice Brothers. Since its debut album in 1992, NRSK has released critically acclaimed albums to a rather uninterested mass audience, but its indie-rock sensibilities and intelligent lyrics propel it above the glossy-magazine picks and ensure the group as an important contributor to the real world of independent rock music.