… Conservatory rock is nothing new, but the trick that Wax Wine pulls off well is to marry technique with emotion — and emotion tends to tip the scales on these tunes. “Mole” takes the pretty conventional tale of a stunted relationship to dramatic heights thanks to a turgid arrangement; lyrically, the song could lend itself to a punk-rock kiss-off. Here, it feels weighed down. Romantic disappointment gets a lighter touch on “The Bells and the Boys,” with the titular bells and a punctuated cello counterpoint to give lift to Huggins‘ clear, airy vocals. The ringing celeste that drives “Lost” may be reminiscent of a fairy tale, but the earthy, resonant cello lines and nonstop percussion take the song someplace darker. That dynamic presents an essential tension for these songs, which highlight a bare lyrical soul wrapped in classical finery.

Natalie Huggins