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Ramesh gets a second life with expansive indie rock

After indie darlings Voxtrot folded, Ramesh picked up the pieces. Photo credit: Natsumi Photography

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The saying goes that you have your entire life to write your first album (or book or movie or play or really any creative project) and only a year to write your second. It's through this somewhat unfair algorithm that the phenomenon of the "sophomore slump" emerges: yeah, you were exciting when you burst on the scene a sensation, but what have you done for us lately? If your second album fails to live up to high expectations or, forbid, you try to experiment with something different, you can expect to be roundly pilloried by an audience that has only grown more fickle and spread-out in the age of the Internet.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, once the pinnacle of DIY distribution in the halcyon days of Myspace, seemed to lean into the idea of the sophomore slump, following up their beloved self-titled debut with the defiantly difficult Some Loud Thunder. Yet, even though that album almost came off as a self-aware parody of a sophomore slump, it didn't stop their audience from dutifully banning them to the metaphorical cornfield, from which they only recently returned, though that initial magic is long gone.

Ramesh Svrivastava (more commonly known simply as Ramesh) knows a thing or two about the rubber band of an audience's affections snapping back on you with the release of a second album - though, in Ramesh's case, the backlash came after a string of promising releases and the jump to a record label. Having fronted the much-hyped Voxtrot in the first half of the 21st century, Ramesh and his bandmates parted ways in 2010 after their debut LP with The Beggars Group was met with disappointing reviews and a general sense that their early scrappiness had somehow gotten lost. Whether or not those criticisms were valid was beside the point.

Though the dissolution of Voxtrot was understandably difficult for Ramesh, he has since soldiered on, forming the band Ramesh, eventually coming out with the well-received LP The King in 2014, with a forthcoming release on the horizon. Though Ramesh is based in Austin, his tastes lean more toward the European, garnering him comparisons to self-deprecating wit of the Smiths, the delicacy of Belle and Sebastian, and the melodramatic pomp of British Sea Power. To my ears, there's also a bit of Badly Drawn Boy thrown into the mix (speaking of artists who ran into the brick wall of unrealistic expectations), thanks to Ramesh's honeyed voice and his penchant for chamber pop, especially on the opening title track.

Chiefly, Ramesh specializes in making lush, openhearted indie pop, his gentle vocals driving home the sense that the listener is being opened up to. I can't speak with any authority about whether Ramesh writes autobiographically, but the lyrics largely feel disarmingly intimate. On The King, Ramesh's songs embrace a feeling of wide-open spaces, creating expansive versions of what might otherwise have found life as hushed bedroom pop.

Interspersed with these more tender moments are songs that flirt with post-punk, which may be the direction that Ramesh may be moving in, as indicated by the three singles that have been released in anticipation of his next record. This is a welcome bit of progression, as The King can sometimes seem to uniformly airy. A bit of bite is just the right thing to place the quieter songs in stark relief. Of the new material, "Redemption" is the most effective melding of Ramesh's various interests, blending dissonance, sturdy drums and bass, sparkling interludes, and Ramesh's persistently vulnerable, gossamer vocals.

Bouncing back from early stumbles has become easier in the Internet age, for artists, even as those early stumbles become more common. Ramesh has shown that there's always the possibility of a second life, regardless of where you last left off.

Ramesh w/Lobsana, Robert Earl Thomas, Saturday, July 16, 9 p.m., $5, New Frontier Lounge, 301 E. 25th St., Tacoma, 253.572.4020

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