Strange Ranger’s lovely new album Daymoon begins with a low, fuzzy, electrified hum, streaked with one skinny ribbon of guitar feedback. Then a pump organ fades in, wheezing back and forth between a couple of chords like a sleepy driver trying to stay awake on the road.

When the familiar plunk-plunk-plunk of an acoustic guitar enters the picture, it does so unassumingly; you might wonder if it was there the whole time. The feedback squalls, then cuts out just as spectral vocals settle in: “Everybody knows he is not at home/Where else would he go?/Who knows?/You don’t.” The voice is soft and slightly slurred, adding to the hazy feel of the song, which spends its final three minutes crescendoing into a sea of crash cymbals, sighed “oohs,” and scattered piano.

This opening track is aptly named “Glow,” and it signals a new path for Strange Ranger, the band formerly known as Sioux Falls.

Before we go down that new path, however, we must check the rearview mirror. Isaac Eiger and Fred Nixon grew up in Bozeman, Montana, where they bonded over their shared love of early Modest Mouse and formed Sioux Falls in high school before moving to Portland in 2011. Once here, they found a way into the local DIY scene when Nathan Tucker from the band Loser Boyfriend reached out about adding Sioux Falls to a show bill. (Tucker now plays guitar and drums for Strange Ranger.)

“That was the turning point in our personal lives and our creative lives,” Nixon says, “where we met all the people we’re still friends with today.”

In 2015, Eiger and Nixon recorded the Sioux Falls album called Rot Forever. It’s quite different from Daymoon: more jittery, less patient, more screamy, less floaty. Stereogum named Sioux Falls one of the best new bands of 2016, and Tiny Engines—a terrific indie label that’s home to the Hotelier, Mannequin Pussy, and the Spirit of the Beehive, among others—signed the band and agreed to release its sophomore LP.

Eiger and Nixon had already been thinking about their next move, of course. And it wasn’t to make another Rot Forever.

“We felt like we made the big rock record that we had wanted to make for a long time, and we had other interests musically,” Eiger says.

Nixon elaborates: “We knew the next record would be a different feel, more influenced by what we were listening to at the time.”

Those influences include bands that surround their songs with a heavy dose of atmosphere, like Sparklehorse and the Microphones. With new ideas to explore, Eiger and Nixon decided to take their time recording and experiment with new instruments, sounds, and effects.

“We didn’t know as much what was going to happen going into the recording process,” Nixon says. “We just tried a bunch of shit out and used what worked.”

Lots of what they did worked. Highlights include “House Show,” with its chiming, Isaac Brock-ish guitar riffs and potent chorus; the gentle chug and airy melody of “Warm”; and a couple of mid-album ballads, “Hydration is Key” and “Sophie,” that march slowly and relentlessly into the bleak.

They’re followed by the upbeat “Everything all at Once,” which proves Strange Ranger can still kick out a jangling, mid-fi indie rock jam. Fragile falsetto tunes like “Everything Else” and “Why Didn’t You” feel like long-lost Fabergé eggs from the 1994 Elliott Smith Annual Easter Egg Hunt and Overcast Potluck.

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Eiger says the band worked “meticulously” on Daymoon for months, compared to about 10 days for its predecessor. The goal: to give Strange Ranger’s songs the kind of arrangement and production they deserve.

“I think a lot of the best music is when those two things work hand in hand,” Nixon says. “You have to start with a good song, but then if you can produce it in a really cool way, that makes it the best it can be. And that’s what we were trying to do.”

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