Lately there’s been a rash of formerly distortion-heavy, lo-fi leaning garage acts polishing up their hooks and making more focused, streamlined full lengths. Both The Fresh & Onlys and King Tuff did so this year to mixed results, but Woods’ excellent Bend Beyond and Thee Oh Sees’ Putrifiers II are examples of this approach being pulled off to perfection. Losing little of their earlier rag-tag charm, both of those LPs are about the songs instead of the jams or some sort of lo-fi DIY approach. You can add Sic Alps’ recent self-titled album to that side of the list. Where it loses the sprawling, often thrilling edge of last year’s Napa Asylum, Sic Alps shows off a newly focused side of the band that earlier LPs barely hinted at. The band uses strings fairly liberally, has written a handful of songs that veer into singer/songwriter territory, and end things with a gorgeous, atmospheric piano ballad. Not to say they’ve been completely tamed – the electric guitar solo that swoops in halfway through “Wake Up, It’s Over II” is as antagonistic as it is heroic, and “Drink Up!” is pure fuzzed-out noise rock – but these moments share time fairly equally with the lighter side. It all works – Sic Alps is a fantastic journey and the sound of an already excellent band reaching a new level. It’s available now on Drag City.