Jets to Brazil's third album, Perfecting Loneliness, sees under-the-radar veterans achieve the state of grace that contemporary indie rockers spend so much time striving for. Former Jawbreaker singer-guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach heads up these survivors of '90s pre-emo, playing the role of the enlightened Gen Xer with a good bead on his relationship with his parents ("Wishlist"), but still not entirely sure how to make his girlfriend happy ("Lucky Charm").
The album's credits include Mellotron, lap steel, and ambient grit, and the players shine in turn, working in Cracker/ Wilco mode to deliver expansive back-porch tunes modeled on earthy landscapes and panoramic sunsets. The album's cornerstones are a series of sprawling, piano-driven ballads -- the kind of songs that Counting Crows rode to great acclaim, but can't (or won't) pull off anymore. Counting themselves among the failed and damaged, these onetime hipster luminaries can still sing convincingly about people with minimum-wage jobs who can't, for a number of reasons, afford to call in sick ("The Frequency"). Yeah, Jets to Brazil are still grappling with issues that many of their peers had resolved by 1998 -- but that only means they still have some raw vitality left.