All at Once

"It comes like a punch in the gut," sings Mikel Jollett on the title track of his band's second album. It's a fair description of ATE's approach, which up-ramps utilitarian folk rock into anthems that address serious topics like hollow relationships and the road to world peace. You root for the good intentions and enjoy the glints of sunlight from singer/viola player Anna Bulbrook. But portentous verses thud like birds against fuselage, and by the time "Welcome to Your Wedding Day" stages a rousing chant of "We don't negotiate with terror," it's hard to tell whether it's a critique of militarist grandstanding or the genuine item. You can't have your subtlety and bury it too.

Listen to The Airborne Toxic's "Numb":  
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From The Archives Issue 1129: April 28, 2011
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