During his tenure fronting North Carolina's Archers of Loaf, Eric Bachmann made sure his group never sank too deeply into the guitar-band monotony so many indie acts are all too happy to propagate. By the Archers' last album, 1998's White Trash Heroes
, he'd twisted their post-Superchunk blare into dark, noisy avant-rock knots. After such potency, it came as something of a disappointment that the first two albums by Bachmann's current band, Crooked Fingers, suggested that he'd be comfortable churning out volume after volume of dank piano-bar rock songs about drinking too much and generally feeling miserable. Dignity and Shame
, the fourth Crooked Fingers album, lifts the doubt: It's a terrific set of texturally adventurous songs about drinking too much and generally feeling miserable, which finds the currently Seattle-based Bachmann's wandering spirit renewed. Many of the tunes sport fluttering Spanish guitar or bright mariachi-band horns, giving Bachmann's depression a romantic, wide-screen flair. The best tracks feature vocals by group member Lara Meyerratken: In the scintillating duet "Call to Love," when she calls Bachmann a "smooth-talking daddy" over exuberantly strummed electric guitars, you'll wonder which dank piano bar they've been frequenting.