Band of Skull's new record, quite an improvement over their previous full-length album (2009's Baby Darling Doll Face Honey), showcases a more emotional and lyrically complex side of the band. Entitled Sweet Sour, the album lives up to its name. The group mixes hard-hitting, heavy rock and roll with intellectual, soft, at times psychedelic alternative rock songs.The opening track, "Sweet Sour," starts off with what one would expect from Band of Skulls. The song oozes heavy rock, over the top of which Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson weave their voices into harmonic beauty. "Bruises," the second track, is reminiscent of fellow English rockers Radiohead's earlier material, with a twist of female vocals.Here, I'll breeze over specifics in favor of a general statement: the album rocks so goddamn hard it's almost guaranteed to blow your socks right off your feet. The band has become so tight it’s hard to understand how they can squeeze all that sound into a studio. The song “Wanderluster” breaks from the rock and roll norm to provide the listener with a Rush-esque, tentative aura in 7/8 time. All the while, Marsden and Richardson croon together in intersecting majesty, singing, “what you forget, I still remember/far, far away, not long ago.” One must never forget the drummer, though. Matt Hayward is a beast, plain and simple. His sound is a perfect fit for the overall feel of the group. Being a trio, they certainly require nothing sort of solid, deep percussion.Interspersed throughout the heavy songs, as I mentioned earlier, are the softer, more sentimental songs. These, I would say, are the heart of the album. Don’t get me wrong, I like when they get heavy; but I also wouldn’t mind an entire album of just these sorts of songs. The way in which Marsden’s guitar work weaves in and out of the grooves created by Richardson and Hayward is nothing short of sensual.My favorite lyric of the record pops up in one of these songs, called “Hometowns.” It goes (in reference to suburban life): “it’s just kids having kids for fear of being alone.” I don’t usually gush, and hope I can restrain myself just enough not to sound like a fan boy, but that is poetry.I hadn’t heard this band before listening to this album. In doing some research, listening to their older material and such, I thought I knew what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. Any fan of this band, I believe, will love this album. Albeit a relatively subtle change in sound from their earlier stuff, it is enough to affirm that this is their genuine energy.Oh, by the way, “The Devil Takes Care of His Own” is kind of boring. Let’s forget that one.