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Soon after the release of their 2013 self-titled album, the Blow's Khaela Maricich and Melissa Dyne began incorporating live electronics, including vintage samplers and homemade synths, into their music. Their follow-up, Brand New Abyss, proves doing away with sample-based tracks was a smart move: Like never before, the Blow's music and lyrics are razor-sharp tools that they use to cut complex relationships and issues down to size. Brand New Abyss' sparse, abstract sonics refocus the duo's witty meta-pop, taking it to ever more literate levels. A pair of radically reworked covers define the album's themes: In Dyne and Maricich's hands, the Eagles' "Peaceful Easy Feeling" is an arch electro-pop prologue to Brand New Abyss' examinations of love, identity, and memories. Later, they take an even bigger risk in reworking Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All," but it pays off in the way that the dry wit and down-to-earth honesty in Maricich's voice automatically question the song's sweeping statements. This kind of irony sometimes felt too distancing on The Blow, but it enhances the remarkable songwriting and wordplay on Brand New Abyss. Dyne and Maricich capture the chronic problems of dysfunctional and failed relationships brilliantly on songs such as "Think About Me," where Maricich sings "I'll be as out of place as a second sun/Burning in your sky" and on "So There," a surreal road trip with an old flame that's studded with vivid landmarks ("The sign read 'fireplaces' and it glowed like a gate to hell") and turns the opening "ooh"s of New Order's "Temptation" into a spellbinding coda. Brand New Abyss' social commentary is just as pointed, whether it's "Get Up"'s skewering of 21st century excess, or the way "The Woman You Want Her to Be" takes the pliability of the ideal woman to disturbing extremes. It all makes for the Blow's most self-assured, thought-provoking, and exciting music yet.