Essential New Music: Refrigerator’s “High Desert Lows”

It’s a tough lot, being the flagship band on a willfully obscure record label, but Refrigerator’s never taken the easy path. The group has rarely toured, its albums are hard to find, and its jangly, off-kilter sound is more of a slow-burn obsession than love at first listen. Built around Allen Callaci’s blue-collar soulful voice, High Desert Lows (produced by Simon Joyner) shows the band in a blue period. These songs are mournful and searching, a withering waltz here, a cockeyed folk ballad there.

Swooning strings and twinkly pianos abound, but the general vibe is idiosyncratic Americana. “Cardboard Death Elevator” is a gorgeous defeatist anthem, bolstered by a bruising guitar solo from band co-founder/Shrimper CEO Dennis Callaci. “Mission & Garey,” “Twice As Less,” “Bonnie Pointer” and several others thrive in that sweet spot between awe and bitterness. “Drag my body through the ditch,” Callaci sings on “Save For Baltimore.” “Sing my swansong in perfect pitch.”

—Patrick Rapa