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Underlined Passages fine-tunes and experiments, to equally good results

One of the great joys of running a blog for 19 years is seeing the long scope of a musician’s work. Independent Clauses started covering Michael Nestor’s work with The Seldon Plan in 2007. 15 years later, we’re covering Nestor’s fourth record as/with Underlined PassagesNeon Inoculation. It’s an honor, really.

On to the record: Don’t be fooled by the title suggesting very timely ruminations on current state of affairs and perhaps some ’80s electro vibes. The record does have some synths in it (“Drone,” “Lng Ago, Fr Away”), but put in the service of the band’s wistful, rainy-day indie-rock that is often about relationships.

“Couples Therapy” is the standout here: a sturdy kit backbeat matches a melodic, early-00s-indie acoustic guitar line and allows the vocals to soar. It’s evocative of Death Cab for Cutie’s early work and early ’00s twinkly-guitar emo. (This is a high compliment, in case there was any confusion.) “Lng Ago, Fr Away” has similar vibes to great effect. But it’s not all rain-streaked windows and winsome longing. “Lng Trm Xposure” kicks up the energy with higher tempos and some distorted guitar crunch. “I Was Wrong” introduces some ’90s Brit-rock flair via patient verse instrumentation that blossoms into churning, big-arrangement rock choruses.

Keys play a prominent role toward the end of the record. “Quaalz” is a moody, ambient-adjacent synth-and-drums track that showcases a very different side of Underlined Passages. Closer “Circles-Sand” demonstrates high drama through a pile-up of organ sounds. Nestor’s experimentation with different sounds works well here within the context of the record and the established Underlined Passages sound.

Underlined Passages’ Neon Inoculation is a welcome entry in the Underlined Passages discography. It fine-tunes the best of Underlined Passages’ core sound while pushing the band in interesting new directions. This fan of early ’00s indie rock had his ears perk up on hearing it, and I think you may as well. Especially check out “Couples Therapy.”