With a misnomer for a band name and a montage sound, Amsterdam's Alamo Race Track have tapped into influences that run the gamut from loner back porch blues to the unhinged sentiment of Modest Mouse f

With a misnomer for a band name and a montage sound, Amsterdam's Alamo Race Track have tapped into influences that run the gamut from loner back porch blues to the unhinged sentiment of Modest Mouse. But ART's eclecticism proves to be quintessentially indie-rock on its sophomore release, "Black Cat John Brown." Shining, summery melodies permeate the record, often providing a foil for lead singer Ralph Mulder's underlying sense of grief; "Black cat John Brown," he sings in the eponymous ode, "you'll have a good life and then you'll die." But of the dozen songs on "Black Cat John Brown," not one finds comfort by wallowing in downright pity. Bright, up-tempo orchestration and lilting percussion carry the tunes, while Mulder merely invokes tribulations and lovelorn affairs. "My happiness [is] a life's pursuit," he confesses in "Kiss Me Bar" amid the ricocheting "bullets" of intoxicated romance, suggesting that though this stock car race called life may be far from through for him, there's plenty of exhilaration still to come. -- Matt Gornick