Mix of light, harsh makes third album ‘enchanting’; Risky transition pays off in Klaxons’ sophomore effort

Francisco Marin

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Hawk

Who would have thought that a former vocalist for Belle & Sebastian and a crusty grunge punk from The Screaming Trees could make such enchanting music?

Isobel Campbell, her voice ambrosial and effervescent, and Mark Lanegan, his voice soaked with whiskey and cigarette smoke, have released their third full-length album, Hawk. A compelling amalgam of post-modern Americana and dark folk melodies, Hawk may be their best effort yet.

On “No Place to Fall,” Willy Mason lends his murmuring voice to a rustic, shuffling desert ballad and, along with Campbell’s lilting vocals, the combination is hauntingly beautiful. But on songs like “Get Behind Me,” Mark Lanegan takes the spotlight, raspily singing into the mic as gospel organs and rollicking guitar fill the negative space.

Like an iron fist in a velvet glove, Hawk is commanding and delicate in its composition. Whereas Campbell and Lanegan’s previous albums were hindered by an overwhelming sense of restraint, Hawk is the fully realized dichotomy between two extremely different ­— and compatible — vocalists.

For fans of: She & Him, Conor Oberst, Wilco

Klaxons, Surfing the Void

In 2007, Klaxons released their Mercury Prize-winning debut album, Myths of the Near Future, to critical acclaim. Music journalists everywhere began to talk about — and attack — the “New Rave” label bestowed upon the trio at a time when a new British invasion was taking place (Foals, Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines). At Klaxons shows, glow sticks and neon shirts abounded, and there was a brief resurgence in electro-inspired bangers as artists like Justice, Simian Mobile Disco and Uffie gained popularity.

Now, nearly four years after their debut, Klaxons have released their sophomore effort, Surfing the Void. Gone are the air-raid sirens and bass-heavy 4/4 beats. In their place is more emphasis on proggy guitar work and a super-dense wall of sound that may very well destroy your headphones.

What caused such a 180-degree turnaround in the London-based band? That may be the work of producer Ross Robinson, an unlikely figure to be working with Klaxons. The American producer is responsible for bringing us albums by Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot and — get this — Vanilla Ice. Robinson was the guy who created the hordes of angsty neu-metal punks that hung around the Harlingen mall.

Even after considering that tidbit, Surfing the Void marks quite a progression for a band once considered the buffoons of the Day-glo scene. Album opener “Echoes” is rife with pounding, swelling guitars and vocals that exhibit some serious dynamic range. But on songs like “Flashover,” warbly guitar and heavy reverb make for straight-ahead rock music that eerily recalls The Horrors’ first few singles.

The transition from rave-inspired jams to rock music in its most traditional form was a risky, and probably very challenging, move to make. For that to happen in four short years, Klaxons deserve some applause.

For fans of: Kasabian, The Cribs, Interpol