A Dotted Line

A Dotted Line

A Dotted Line ends a nine-year recording hiatus for the band that brought bluegrass influences into the mainstream in the '00s. The members of Nickel Creek were in their twenties when this album's predecessor, Why Should the Fire Die, was released; since then, they've ventured into solo projects and new groups (Punch Brothers, Works Progress Administration). But after all that individual evolution, they've reconvened for a record that pretty much picks up where the trio left off. The cool, classy blend of folk, pop, bluegrass, and rock that made Nickel Creek famous is still the focus here, full of rich vocal harmonies and subtly surprising melodic turns. Within that paradigm, the group retain the eclecticism of old on everything from the hushed ballad "Christmas Eve" to the urgent, rock-inflected "You Don't Know What's Going On." Despite the band's considerable chops, the instrumentals ("Elsie," "Elephant in the Corn") contain nary an unnecessary note, and covers of tunes by art-pop siren Sam Phillips and Canadian indie rockers Mother Mother show the band's still got big ears.

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