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CD review: Buellton's Silent Partner 

Telegraph Brewing; Release Date: June 17, 2014

In 2001, Santa Barbara's Buellton dropped one of those little-label indie pop-rock gems, Avenue of the Flags, via Portland's FILMGuerrero. The quartet's tight, guitar-centric songs exuded a Folk Implosion vibe, due in part to singer John Nygren's Lou Barlow-like voice.

But Buellton split amicably in 2002 and vanished. Fast forward through nearly 15 years of marriages, kids and regular jobs, and out of nowhere emerges a sophomore release, which sounds like it was released a year or two after its debut.

Nygren and drummer Erik Herzig are the only original members left, but the former's songwriting chops remain intact here. Guitars still buzz, snarl and chime over melancholy-tinged melodies and memorable hooks, sometimes evoking the intertwined bass-and-guitar of Pinback (especially on "Golden Hour") and at other times recalling Weezer's early slacker rock ("N.O.D."). Pretty harmonizing (think Shins) and occasional effects — keys, mostly, but some horns and strings, too — serve well as wingmen for the spotlighted guitars.

Buellton is at its best when they corral all those elements into enormous choruses, as they do on the sinuous "Length of Yer Arms" or super-hooky "Rigging the Meters."

Nygren's concerns have switched from the foibles of college buddies and bad-luck girls to adult stand-bys like acceptance, stiff-arming Father Time, keeping the spark (any spark) alive, etc. Nearly a decade-and-a-half after their debut, it's nice to see that fire still stokes the band's music.

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