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There's always been a conciseness to +/- {Plus/Minus}. This isn't an adjective used to describe most bands and certainly not any outside of more exact genres where such an attribute is celebrated like prog or math rock (which, in spite of their name, this band is not). But the New York trio is dizzyingly proficient, decisive in their arrangements and, yes, concise. It's strange that commercial hip-hop producers like Timbaland aren't described in such terms, but then, the fusion of those skills is used to produce songs that seem effortless and simple in their exuberance and charm. Over the course of the last seven years, three albums and two EP's, +/- {Plus/Minus} have made records that sound equally effortless, but so much more complex in their approach, like celebrity magicians or acrobats from Cirque Du Soleil. You're dazzled, you're entertained, but your brain is working overtime; "How do they do that?" The density, allure and rhythmic propulsion in the bands music share a lot with a producer like Timbaland, but the band's virtuosic leaps and rapid movements make them a Tesla to his Edison, a gourmet burger to his ad-ready Big Mac. Their last album, 2006's Let's Build A Fire, was the pinnacle of this approach, a pop record so intricately constructed and executed at breakneck speeds, you might call it hyper-pop. Utterly wonderful and somehow, not totally accessible.

With their fourth album, X's On Your Eyes, James Baluyut, Patrick Ramos & Chris Deaner haven't dumbed down their approach, but they've slowed it just a wink (or slowed it long enough for a wink and a smile). Handclaps, warm vocal harmonies and rhythms you can tap your toe to without hurting yourself. The results are sublime, an engaging and catchy pop record better than anything the band has ever done. Maybe it's the rash of marriages and children that came since the last record was finished. Maybe it's James Baluyut's many late nights belting out the ballads of the 1970's at his local karaoke bar. Maybe it's drummer Deaner's increased role in the album's composition following his touring as Kelly Clarkson's drummer. Maybe it's hearing Ramos' soaring vocal from Let's Build A Fire's "For You" in a placement over David Caruso's histrionics on CSI: Miami last year. Maybe it's just a matter of maturity and the changing nature of things. In any case, this is a band still bristling with excitement, but a more inclusive, kinder sort. There's still plenty, like Baluyut's lead single "Snowblind" and Ramos' companion "Subdued," to captivate their core fanbase and a whole lot more for new fans to put their arms around. +/- {Plus/Minus} will be touring the world in support of the album..