James Murphy rescues intelligent dance music from the oblique, humorless IDM crowd, forging a canny, self-conscious blend of new-wave nostalgia, skittering breaks, and wry wit. (He did, after all, almost write for Seinfeld.) Murphy's second full-length is more luxurious than his debut, apparently the result of spending even more time crafting his slacker-operatic paeans. He acknowledges the approach on the slow-building opener, "Get Innocuous" -- "When once you have believed it/ Now you see it sucking you in/ To string you along with a pretense/ And pave the way for the coming release."
Sound of Silver succeeds thanks to a front-loaded nine-song set that collects the four best tracks one after another, leaving only an intermittently interesting second half. But oh, those tracks -- highlighted by the irresistible single "North American Scum," which sounds like Beck and Daft Punk covering "Life During Wartime." "Time to Get Away" unleashes more cowbell and Gang of Four guitar, while the fishtailing, goth-inflected synth-pop of "Someone Great" and the arch New Order shimmer of "All My Friends" leave no doubt when Murphy grew up. Though the rest is a mixed bag, it's sculpted well enough to make it worth the ride.