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The Minnesota Daily

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Dust in the wind

The First Prize Killers’ new album has a brilliant, friends-playing-for-fun quality that makes it instantly likable. “The Powdery Parade,” the band’s third release and first full-length album, was put out on Martin Devaney’s new Eclectone label and features Mike Brady on vocals, banjo, drums, trombone and guitar, as well as cover layout duties. After spending several years as a studio-only project, the band finally played a few live shows at the Dinkytowner and on Radio K this spring.

This record shows off their range and an array of musical moods. There are lazy summer afternoon folk ditties like “The Lower” and harder-edged songs like “City Won’t Let You Down,” which rocks with trumpets, fuzzy guitar chords and defiant vocals.

Paul DesCombaz’s full-throated lead echoes Beck and Jeff Tweedy, but he still comes through distinctly. He can vary his vocal style from languid country drawl (as much as a Yank can muster) to a bold vocal shove and do it all very convincingly, without a whiff of affectation.

Rollicking and danceable, First Prize Killers sound as if they’d be right at home in the Turf Club’s unpretentious atmosphere. “The Powdery Parade” is peppered with great Neil Young-influenced guitar solos bursting through an assortment of pounding rockers and thoughtful, engaging lyrical observations. Fleshed out with organ, trumpets and violin, the songs evoke many moods, and it all flows together naturally, without a hint of trying-too-hard embellishment.

The album contains quite a few catchy melodies, specifically the infectious, slide-guitar “God Takes a Lover.” Infused with country-western flavored laments like “Breaking your heart / Is the only thing that he’s good at,” DesCombaz’s delivery comes off like a friend giving sincere advice.

He switches to a playful call-and-response on “The Cactus,” with the insistent “Got it? I got it,” then breaks into the observation that it’s “season to fall in love,” adding, “you got the look of love.” It’s all tied up with charming, harmonizing backup vocals that run through the record. Here’s hoping the band can bring their eclectic, down-home sound to more live gigs.

First Prize Killers will perform with Racine and The Holy Cowboy Guys at 9:30 p.m. Friday at Big V’s, (651) 645-8472, 21+.

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