Though a mainstay of the New York City music scene, Calla has nearly always seemed like a band misplaced. Manhattan is friendly to many sounds these days, but the defining trait of all of them is usually torque -- a vicious energy, the propulsive throb of the city itself. Calla's music, on the other hand, has always seemed disembodied: If Strokes songs burned up quick, like the lit tip of a cigarette, Calla's songs were smoke curling around the walls of the club.
But Calla's new LP, Collisions, has a definite spark. Tracks such as "It Dawned on Me" and "Swagger" boast pounding beats, and frontman Aurelio Valle's generally wispy vocals have tightened around melodies that could almost be mistaken for pop. The hints of the new record's momentum are there on the band's prior discs -- the nearly impenetrable Televise and the dark and spectrally lovely Scavengers -- but producer Victor Van Vugt (Nick Cave, PJ Harvey) has harnessed the band's previous vaporousness into something as hard, aerodynamic, and slick as a bullet. Calla's songs always had bite underneath the shoegazerish lull; now they've got a bark too, and the band's shows are all the better for it.