On the first Cotillon album, singer/songwriter Jordan Corso worked with JR White of Girls fame to craft a fairly lush version of what Jad Fair might sound like if backed by a super-competent band of indie rockers. Corso's plaintive, homespun vocals contrasted well with the expansive music, but at times it felt like an ill fit. The second Cotillon album, 2017's The Afternoons, presents a course correction that sees Corso working with producer Shane Butler and a smaller group of musicians. Gone are horns, layers of guitars, and any traces of slickness. Instead, Corso's winning vocals and tales of life are delivered in much scrappier fashion. The guitars are wiry and tough, the rhythm section is recorded live and lively, and the occasional synths drop in to make some noise. Like the first album, the songs are stories and Corso comes across as a lovable guy, with a little more romantic success this time. While most of the tracks lope along calmly in fine post-Pavement slacker style -- both fast like on "Secret" and slow and shambly as on "10 Dish Set" -- Corso mixes in a few changeups to keep it interesting. The vocoder-sung ballad "Promises 2" is a real curveball; the motorik groove of "SFO" is another one that gives the album an energy boost right when it needs it.
The snappy pop tune "Fang" is a tiny pop gem that's likely to be the mixtape pick of Beat Happening fans who are lucky enough to discover the record. It comes together really nicely in the end, with Corso sounding more at home in the stripped-down arrangements, and the album is a definite improvement over the band's debut.