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First Listen: Timber Timbre, 'Hot Dreams'

Timber Timbre's new album, <em>Hot Dreams</em>, comes out April 1.
Courtesy of the artist
Timber Timbre's new album, Hot Dreams, comes out April 1.

Timber Timbre's members tiptoe across some strange boundaries: Atop atmospheric sound beds that often conjure spaghetti Westerns, Taylor Kirk's dusky croon can seem seductive, inviting and, when he prefers, deeply creepy. It's a voice that can embody Halloween itself — Timber Timbre is self-aware enough to have titled its last album Creep On Creepin' On — and yet Kirk possesses the versatility to sing sweet ballads with Feist on the side.

"I wanna follow through, follow through on all my promises and threats to you, babe," Kirk sings in the title track to Timber Timbre's fifth album, Hot Dreams. It's a song that oozes devotion and longing, and yet that tiny fraction-of-a-breath in that one line — "and threats" — hints at a menacing undercurrent that remains unaddressed. Kirk sometimes drops sly hints of impure motives, which only heightens the impact of his spooky intonations and the soulfully inky sway of the arrangements that surround him.

However painstakingly you want to parse Kirk's words on Hot Dreams, Simon Trottier's cinematic arrangements surround him with a Technicolor sound that's as unsettling or as comforting as you'd like it to be. There's a breezy timelessness to Timber Timbre's music that can make it seem bright, sweet and approachable. But, as with so much in life, rewards and alluring perils await those willing to search in the shadows.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)