Matchbook Romance's debut, Stories and Alibis, offered little indication of the band's promise. But with chiming riffs swiped from Muse's muscle museum and ominous melodies that lend gravity to singer Andrew Jordan's starry-eyed lyrics, Voices transcends the band's whinecore origins. Matchbook Romance unleashes the full statement-record arsenal -- string section, piano punctuation, epic codas -- and it all works, perhaps because the group recruited help to play the auxiliary instruments. It took its strengths -- peppy percussion, fist-pumping choruses -- and gave them a savage twist, so the handclaps sound ghostly, the drums feel colossal, and the group vocals recall angry mobs. Voices might not end up as 2006's best album, but it will be hard to top as the year's biggest surprise.
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