60-Second Critic: Espers
(Drag City; $14.98)
Philly troupe Espers once performed in a former funeral parlor, surrounded by candles—a fitting setting for its shuffling, woodsy psychedelic folk music. Espers II, the follow-up to 2004’s self-titled debut, comes on the heels of last year’s cover-intensive The Weed Tree, which reworked traditional folk music and numbers by Blue Oyster Cult and Nico. Despite the inherent oddness, a recent tour with Stereolab was proof of breakout potential. It helps that the men and women of Espers subvert folk’s dusty conventions with a persistent quietness and unpredictability. “Mansfield and Cyclops” pairs willowy strings and ethereal singing with intricate guitar work and heady distortion, while “Cruel Storm” piles on a sinister yet cosmic vibe. Espers’s latest is pretty enough to enchant newcomers, yet authentic enough to keep fringe tastemakers from launching a backlash.