With front woman Liela Moss’s velvety voice, the band’s penchant for mixing dark blues, soul, psych, British rock and 60′s swagger, The Duke Spirit is like a Victorian silver tea set, beautiful to behold, especially as the tarnish makes its sheen more complex. Cuts Across the Land and Neptune were stunning, brooding albums, grit and all, but with their latest, Bruiser, the band has scraped away much of the surface to deliver a polished, straight-forward album filled with rock scorchers and love ballads.

The Duke Spirit have stepped up their game to build a sound that’s even more chart-worthy, for better or for worse. Perhaps it’s the perfectionist influence of producer Andrew Scheps, but I think they can bring back more of their former sassy dissonance and frayed edges. Even the album art is stark and rock serious; it could be a lost cover from The Cult. Epic grandeur comes on strong in the impressive “Bodies”, with its churning bass, heady guitars and Moss’s vivid emotional, vocal range. “Sweet Bitter Sweet” and opener “Cherry Tree” has all the sexy, smokin’ Duke Spirit twists and turns that make this band great, and when I saw them live in October, I was again knocked to my knees. I just wish they hadn’t stripped so much away in the recorded version this time. (Fiction/Shangri-La)