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Arco



London trio Arco takes its name not from the petroleum conglomerate (no real surprise there) but instead from a musical notation that tells string players to resume use of their bow rather than continuing plucking with their fingers. That image of graceful transition works nicely to describe the music of Arco, whose spare and lovely pop songs evoke the melancholy moments of reflection which come between moments of action. The trio keeps things perpetually restrained, building an atmosphere of measured, ethereal beauty with shimmering, mostly acoustic guitar figures, soft and simple drums and bass, and vocalist Chris Healey's earnest woebegone verses on alienation, loss, and life's magic.

On a handful of songs from their gorgeous debut LP, Coming to Terms, the trio augments their basic instrumental setup with a few other sounds, including warm trumpet, gentle viola, and gauzy keyboards, but rarely does the roof threaten to come off. That's not to suggest that Arco's music is soporific or monotonous, far from it. The group creates drama and gentle tension through series of small, subtle changes (see the profoundly affecting "Alien"). Occasionally Arco's style recalls the fragile ballads of Radiohead circa The Bends, but without the histrionics; more often their meditative pop songs suggest Elliott Smith's sparse yearning or Low's snowy tone poetry. None of those comparisons are quite right though; Arco's restrained, searching loveliness is in a class all by itself.