Considering the tragedy that ended Silkworm—a suicidal driver killed drummer Michael Dahlquist, along with two other Chicago musicians, in 2005—and its lingering effects on alumni (and Bottomless Pit founders) Tim Midgett and Andy Cohen, it's tempting to read a lot into the group's debut. Take a song like "Dead Man's Blues," with its lyrics, "I lie in the street / the cars run over me / I wanted to die / but I'm a tough piece of meat." The album's austere grey design—no credits, no lyrics, just song titles—reinforces the melancholy, but Hammer isn't dreary. Atop the pathos lies the melodic, distinctly Midwestern indie rock Bottomless Pit's members have spent years honing. It's a patient, methodical approach, and when the payoffs arrive—like the sweet end of "Human Out Of Me"—they hit harder and last longer.

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