Throwing Stars: "Bluebird Full of Fire" 

Good albums take pains to establish a distinct atmosphere. Throwing Stars, a Bloomington, Ind. collective made up of members of Gentleman Caller and Brando, takes that approach, crafting an album with a firmly established mood and place — think a dimly-lit martini bar, whiskey and cigarette smoke rising to the ceiling. It's not perfect, and it's nothing revolutionary, but "Bluebird Full of Fire," is workmanlike and effective.

The opener, "Alligator," sets the tone, with a street-wise drum beat kicking things into gear. Mitch Harris' drums help propel much the album beyond the bands' humble aspirations. The production on Harris' drums is the star of the show, pressing his time-keeping ghost notes on the snare drum way back into the mix, and bringing his tasteful kick drum to the forefront. It's an effect that works for the song and the album as a whole.

"Bluebird Full of Fire" works best when the band keeps things short and sweet, limiting their songs to under four minutes. When it falters, as on the slow, plodding piano ballad "The Ghost We Left is Back," the band stretches things too far, overworking good ideas.

But in its finest moments, the aforementioned "Alligator," "Lucky Disappeared," "War Parade" and "Chariot!" the band understands that packing a lot of punch into a shorter song can be very effective. In these moments, "Bluebird Full of Fire," is an exceptionally dynamic headphones record, full of swirling guitars and mournful strings.

Full album stream via Bandcamp:

<a href="" target="_blank">Alligators by Throwing Stars</a>

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