Tension and abrasion are two of the building blocks of post-punk, but few of this decade's post-punk revivalists have constructed anything durable out of them. The Portland trio New Bloods is an exception, the rare outfit able to translate unease and malaise into delicate, even gorgeous forms. Much of that has to do with the band's setup: violins, bass, and drums. It's a sad statement that, circa 2008, it's still a revolutionary move for an indie-rock band to ditch the guitar, but New Bloods use that ostensible handicap as their greatest strength: Throughout their debut, The Secret Life, songs are compressed, accelerated, whispered, and howled in giddy fits of pressure and resolution—and from such friction, links to post-punk forebears like The Raincoats and Dog Faced Hermans are forged with familial strength and respectful distance simultaneously in mind. But there's a fourth instrument at play: the twined voices of all three New Bloods, a symbiotic hydra of harmony that writhes and wails in soulful cohesion, most notably on the a cappella "Day After Day" and the haiku-like "Behind Mountains." More post-folk than post-punk, The Secret Life is a soaring yet sturdy assemblage of passion, intelligence, and the worship of inherent opposition—not to mention one of the few records of its age and kind that bears promise for the future.

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