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  The Rise  
  The Atomic Square  
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The Atomic Square are a four-piece indie rock band from the Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia. That is some beautiful country, if you have never been there. Anyway, they make a brand of power pop that involves rich vocals, soaring affected guitars, and strong rhythms. In many ways, they remind me of U2 -- there is the same sort of openness and sense of drama to their music.

The Rise is their third release, and features five songs. The band is giving their music away as a free download on their website, so you can listen to this and more for the cost of some bandwidth. Not a bad deal at all.

The EP starts with Song For Star-Crossed Lovers, which has a long-slow intro. Guitars tinkle under echo while drums thud for about 35 seconds, until a voice appears way in the background of the mix. Just past the minute mark, the drums pick up the pace and the guitars become more effected. The voice comes in, and this song rocks out for the next two minutes. A good start.

Close Your Eyes is next, and is a very similar song. The pacing is much the same, with the long intro, but it doesn't quite get to the hard rocking frenzy that Song For Star-Crossed Lovers does. Instead, this is a mid-tempo song, getting dense on the choruses. This being a download, the credits are a little vague. Two different people are credited with singing on this EP, and i think that the vocalist here is different than the vocalist on the previous song. I like this voice better. Or maybe i like the guitar tone better here -- during the verses, the guitars get sparse and echoey in a manner that i really enjoy. Well, either way, this tune reminds me a bit of the work of Guernica.

I Try takes us back to the first vocalist. At least, i am pretty sure… The singer here has a bit of natural tremolo in his voice, and he uses it to good effect here. This tune also features some nice dueling guitars -- two of them trading licks. Nice.

But it keeps getting better. My favorite track here is Long Way Home. This starts with some syncopated guitar, before kicking in with a nice drum rhythm, and a vocal line that sounds like Morrissey. Seriously -- the first verse sounds a lot like Morrissey. This also features a great lyric, "Why do everything go over so well when I'm drunk?" Actually, that sounds like something Morrissey could have penned. Anyway, here The Atomic Square let their fandom show through, and i think it really works. This is a good fun tune.

Finally we have St. Aloysius II. This is a nice slow song, with the guitar echoed like something from Verve. During the chorus, one of the voices sort of yells in the background, a move which again reminds me of Guernica. This is a lovely end to the EP.

Now, this is a free download, and the music is of good quality, so it's a bargain. However, you get what you pay for, and here that means that the MP3 encoding leaves something to be desired. Somewhere between Close Your Eyes and I Try something gets messed up with the time counter. I think that there is a problem with the encoding that signifies the end of the song. What happens is, when you look at the player, it shows no more time left in the song, but it keeps adding more time, meaning that you can sit there listening to silence for a long time if you are not paying attention. Anyway, this encoding error also has the effect of crashing my Zune. When it gets stuck on a song that is over but still playing, i have to restart it to move on. Just a word of warning.

On the whole, this is good stuff.

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