Southern rock has become such a broad genre that the term isn't really all that descriptive anymore, so it's best to be specific about how American Princes' third album, Less And Less, fits the bill. The Little Rock band is "Southern" the way R.E.M., Kings Of Leon, and Lucero are Southern—which is to say that their songs tend to tangle and unfurl, with an emphasis on tactile guitar patterns more like early U2 than Molly Hatchet. Less And Less gets off to a strong start with "Stolen Blues," which begins as screechy hardcore and then grows sullen pop legs, sounding like a moment of rage and day-after regret, all in one. From there, American Princes break modern rock into little pieces, keeping the sharp hunks that let guitarist-vocalists David Slade and Collins Kilgore slash away, clearing space for their soaring vocals and heartbroken lyrics.
Less And Less cuts between charging rock, jaunty retro-pop, and stark, romantic balladry, though not always naturally. At times, the record feels a little willfully diverse, as though the band voted to balance the loud with the soft, even though tracks like "This Is The Year" and "Never Grow Old" show that they're capable of combining approaches in a single song. But American Princes hits real highs with the rowdy, proto-punk "Copper For Sand," the atmospheric moaner "Breaks," and the heart-pounding anthem "Chaos Control." And the periodic retreats into sketchy acoustica pays off in the paired ballads "You & Them" and "You & Me," which serve as melancholy guideposts on an album that bleeds loss.