Centro-matic’s Will Johnson is one of indie rock’s most prolific songwriters. With quantity, though, quality usually suffers. Not so with Johnson.



Fort Recovery shows Centro-matic just keeps getting better: the band has mastered the art of falling down and standing tall with open-handed, reflexive songs that expose cuts and bruises. Guitars are scruffy and screech at the right times, drums resonate in a loose, limber manner, and piano and strings frame intimate intervals.



Johnson’s surreal narratives are imbued with conflict and conquest: outlaws win the day (fuzz-rocker "The Fugitives Have Won"), parasite hearts, guns and garbage create a mess (ramshackle, Replacements-like "Triggers and Trash Heaps"), and fear covers the landscape (Americana ballad "In Such Crooked Time").



But there’s also optimism, reconciliation and honorable neighborhood heroes. Fort Recovery holds the fine line between whiskey-soaked ruminations and prominent sonic thump, using simple terms that aren’t cheap or close-fisted.



Grade: A-