The third album from this Chicago-based band, Atari Star's "Prayer + Pretend" is dark, bubbling indie rock and spacey ethereal minimalism where the buzzing instrumentation drifts unhurriedly like a heavy fog. Sleek instrumentation makes "Prayer + Pretend" heavy but never weighs it down, adding, instead, distorted guitar solos and pounding choruses for guitarist and vocalist Marc Ruvolo's clear delivery with just the right attitude.
Atari Star come in with a somewhat sinister tone on the riff-driven "Always if Only," where tight instrumentation brings the song across strongly before slow, heavy guitar riffs buzz on "Starve a Fever." Pounding rock drives on "The Assimilationist" with a straightforward approach and on the catchy "Night Striped Assassins," with its loudly thumping rhythm. The solid buzzing guitar on "Copper" is in no rush, taking its time under the weight of the intense instrumentation. Even when "Prayer + Pretend" offers a quiet and thoughtful moment, it still has a lurking feeling that often builds to fullness: drums crash throughout "Bridge of Sighs" while "The Invisible Rule" pulses. Taking a memorable side trip from the main attraction, "Asphalt Everest" echoes deeply with a spacey atmospheric sound, Ruvolo's vocals coming across crisp and with a hint of fragility.
Whether it be quick moving riff rock or an atmospheric interlude, Atari Star keeps things interesting and engaging without making "Prayer + Pretend" too pretentious or artsy. Although not quite approaching pop, Atari Star's "Prayer + Pretend" has an accessible sound that will play to a wide variety of rock music fans.