Darcy Malone & the Tangle, Pure as Gold (Independent)

This is Malone and the Tangle’s third release in two years, and the sound and confidence of the band continue to evolve. In the past they’ve honored the band’s name by presenting a tangled mix of musical styles, but here it all edges toward an identifiable band sound, and they’ve picked a good place to land: Some of these five tracks are more soulful and some more rocking, but the whole things sounds like it could have been cut at Muscle Shoals during its heyday.

Malone’s also found a tougher singing voice, more steeped in classic Southern soul. That makes the two slow tracks on the EP the standouts: “Bleed Me Dry” (written by keyboardist James Beaumont) is an old-fashioned, soul-baring ballad that she works for all its worth, mainly with just an electric piano for backup (the band holds off kicking in until the halfway mark). “Meringue,” co-written by Darcy with her father Dave Malone, has a more offbeat lyrical slant—“You keep whippin’ it like meringue” is how it describes a messed-up relationship—but it’s another strong slow-burner, and the end-chorus key change resolves the tension it builds.

Elsewhere the band (which now includes Vox & the Hound member and OffBeat contributor Rory Callais on guitar) gets room to stretch out. The Randy Newman song “You Can Leave Your Hat On” sounds nothing like any of the familiar versions; the groove is funkafied and Malone treats it as a straight-up seduction song instead of a mixed-messages sendup. The title track is the disc’s rocker, and an uplifting track with call-and-response vocals and fuzz guitar solo. It not only absorbs the sound of a classic musical era, but its pervasive good vibes as well.