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Friday, June 6, 2014

Split Single: Fragmented World (Inside Outside Records)

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Although Fragmented World is just over half an hour long, Split Single bandleader Jason Narducy enriches it with two kinds of experience: the kind he’s picked up working for Bob Mould, Robert Pollard and Superchunk, and the kind he’s picked up living.

The second kind is obviously harder to quantify than the first, but it lives inside these 10 songs and reveals the maturity of the creator as if it were the musical equivalent of the lines that appear around the eyes as people age. Maturity hasn’t winded Narducy; it’s simply advised him to be leaner and more efficient as a singer, guitarist and songwriter than he was back when he was fronting alt-rock groups like Verbow. And his fellow players, bassist Britt Daniel (of Spoon and Divine Fits) and drummer Jon Wurster (who’s also worked for Mould, Pollard and Superchunk), match his economy of gesture and breadth of chops.

Tightly unified, Split Single punches in and out of each song—from the shimmering post-rock thaw of “Waiting for the Sun” and the martial-tempo punk explosion of “Monolith” to the power-pop ruefulness of the title track and the lithe, lightly exotic swirl of “Love Is You”—with nary a wasted moment. However, the bitten-off riffs, sinewy rhythms and guarded vocals aren’t symptoms of cold distance. Narducy suffuses Fragmented World with sadness on the edge of tangibility, whether it’s the anticipated ache of “Last Goodbye” or the lingering hurt of “Never Look Back.”

Fragmented World is one of those rock albums that can’t stop giving pleasure, even if it isn’t the same pleasure young rockers partake of on a wild Saturday night. Split Single is more suited to afternoons and evenings, when the more experienced among us often find our best moments.