There’s a moment on Months’ new album Black Hats for War that epitomizes the Portland post-punk quartet.

That moment is a split second between songs. The album’s seventh track, “Golden,” spends 199 seconds building and building, from gently strummed guitar and whispered voice to a roar of thick, distorted riffs.

Then, with almost no break at all, the eighth track—a sub-two-minute punk blast called “Throat”—kicks in at top speed and volume. It’s such an abrupt beginning, it feels at first like your listening device of choice has malfunctioned and you’ve dropped into the middle of a song. It’s disorienting, but also a pleasant case of whiplash once you get your bearings.

AARON ROBERT MILLER

And that’s Months: A band that never sits still while keeping you on your toes. To be clear, that’s a wonderful quality for a rock band.

Black Hats for War is Months’ second album, and it’s bigger, burlier, and more robust than 2015’s self-titled effort. Over the past two years, Months have honed their sound; they are taut but pliable, powerful but not showy, and catchy without sacrificing intensity.

Opening track “Gruesome” hurtles forward with confidence, a tightly wound bundle of guitars that bend and bristle. “Month” takes a more aggressive approach, draping distorted squall across drummer Will Hattman’s hyperspeed rhythms. Hattman’s stickwork is absolutely vital to Months’ version of controlled chaos.

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At times, the band delivers cool avant-pop-rock à la Sonic Youth. At others, the guitar interplay of Wilson Vediner and Aaron Miller recalls the woozy chimes of early Modest Mouse. And Courtney Sheedy’s bass lines drive much of Months’ restless motion, as evidenced by “Shadowing,” a seething rager with heart, and “Cardiac,” which may be Black Hats’ peak.

The album ends with “Split,” a perfect encapsulation of Months’ impressive ability to make bracing music that spits out shards of noise and scraps of melody as it rolls along. It’s a potent blend, one that eludes many bands. But not Months. Black Hats for War is a must-hear for anyone who misses the glory days of urgent, unkempt indie rock.

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