Efterklang singer Casper Clausen is something of a conversationalist, even when he confronts the extremes of landscape and humanity. His matter-of-fact delivery balances the drama and bombast of the Danish band's music, making it simultaneously more accessible and more mysterious. How is it possible to be so blasé about an icebound Russian mining town, long since abandoned? From as many as 10 members at times, the band has gradually scaled down to a trio. Their gorgeous fourth album, Piramida
, proves that, creatively speaking, fewer voices are occasionally better. (A further three augment their current live lineup.) Piramida
sounds cold and dramatic and strange, like the Arctic ghost town of the same name where the band recorded the noises that serve as the album's ambient foundation. The arrangements of strings, sublime choruses, and electronic sparkle create an effect that is equal parts radiant and existential. Nightlands, the project of War on Drugs bassist Dave Hartley, has just released a second album, Oak Island
. Like a smash in the face of nostalgia, the album evokes the California soft rock of the 1960s—think the Association or the Mamas and the Papas—layered over chaotic percussion, horns, and noise. The harmonies sound like a box of pastel sweets, but don't be fooled: Underneath them are an ambitious sense of experimentation and, at times, surprisingly dark lyrics. REBECCA WILSON Also see My, What a Busy Week!