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Shout Out Louds: Perfectly Pensive

On its first two albums, Sweden's Shout Out Louds followed a similar formula by updating the dour post-punk of bands like The Cure and Joy Division with ragged guitar riffs, clean production and girl-boy vocal harmonies from singers Bebban Stenborg and Adam Olenius. It's a sound that hasn't always connected with the masses: The major label EMI signed the band for its 2005 debut (How Howl Gaff Gaff) and dropped it soon thereafter.

But with its third album, Shout Out Louds' members have found their footing. Work is a lovely collection of streamlined indie-rock, delicate orchestral pop and intimate fireside balladry. The album's clear highlight, "Four by Four," is a gorgeous acoustic ballad highlighting the soaring, intertwining vocal harmonies of Olenius and Stenborg. Where in the past, Shout Out Louds crammed many sonic ideas into each tune, here the band lets the arrangement breathe. And while there's still a dark, seemingly Cure-inspired undercurrent to Olenius' lyrics -- "Girlfriend, sister, friend / I am not a hopeless case," he sings in a nervous tenor -- Stenborg's airy harmonies provide a much-needed boost to an otherwise perfectly pensive tune.

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K. Alexander