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Absinthe Junk combines modern rock, world music and powerful female vocals

Sometimes a band comes along that’s really good and I just don’t like very much for personal reasons. I call it my Dave Matthews Syndrome. I can acknowledge that Dave Matthews is a talented musician, but I very much do not like his music. It’s not interesting to me, despite my many friends who enjoy it and play me acoustic covers of his songs while we’re sitting around hanging out.

Absinthe Junk is one of those bands, and the reason I don’t like it is because of the female vocalist. I don’t like female vocalists in rock music, for whatever reason. I’m not saying women shouldn’t be in rock, nor that they can’t be excellent rock stars. I’m saying that I dislike frontwomen. Millions of people love Flyleaf and Paramore; I hold nothing against the fans or the bands. I just don’t like it.

On that note, it must be noted that fans of Flyleaf and Paramore will also be great big fans of Absinthe Junk. Absinthe Junk’s Living Ghosts rocks out hard in the modern rock vein, giving lead singer Blair (just Blair, in true rock star form) the platform to make a mark for herself in the pantheon of women rock vocalists. And she makes the best of it, turning out blistering performances where needed (“Commercialized Waste,” “Swear to Me,” “Sweet Vaccine”), slow-burning performances (“Precious Delirium”), or no performance (the instrumental freak-out “Road to Damnation,” dreamy “Living Ghosts”). Her powerful voice carries the sound and makes the band what it is.

The band is no slouch either, led by Blair’s violin-playing chops toward distinctly non-American tones in their music. “Road to Damnation” makes modern rock with Celtic and Middle Eastern overtures in the same tune. That’s impressive.  “Rust” combines those Middle Eastern sounds with brittle electronic sounds and charging riffs. Instrumental title track “Living Ghosts” further explores sounds from the Arab world.

And they do all this while playing tight, well-recorded modern rock. The production values on this disc are immaculate, which helps out the songs. If not recorded as confidently and perfectly as they are, this might sound campy or weird. But it all works perfectly, going off without a hitch.

If you’re a fan of modern rock, this is definitely up your alley. Flyleaf and Paramore fans should take note as well. It’s definitely good.