Sounds like … collaborators Danielson Famile and Sufjan Stevens, but quirkier, plus some vocal and instrumental nods to the Flaming Lips, the Postal Service and Elliott Smith

At a glance … this impossibly peculiar yet incredibly cohesive disc is chock-full of glorious indie pop morsels that will challenge your notion of what Christian-themed music can be

Did anybody not know who Sufjan Stevens was by the end of 2005? The little-known Christian folk singer went from obscurity to ubiquity thanks to his magnum opus Illinois, a masterpiece that became the best-reviewed album of the year. That album opened the door for other avant-garde, faith-based musicians to be heard. Hailing from the same school of creativity as Stevens—and serving as trombonist for the folkster when he's on tour—Half-Handed Cloud (a.k.a. John Ringhofer) is ready to leave a mark of his own with the left-of-center Halos + Lassos, his fourth full-length album.

But the connection between Ringhofer and Stevens begins and ends there. Whereas Stevens' methodology shines best in dense, prog-folk settings, Ringhofer by contrast thrives in tiny, bite-sized morsels of indie pop glory. In fact, most of the songs on Halos + Lassos barely last over a minute, with some tracks melding right into the next to create an almost seamless listening experience. Ringhofer has an unorthodox sense of song structure, his mini symphonies never quite following a clearly defined verse-chorus pattern. Instead, his free-flowing spirit allows him to try virtually anything that tickles his fancy. A one-man band himself, Ringhofer also has an endearing, almost cartoonish voice, one so uppity, melodic and "cute" you can't help but listen.

Unlike the slightly more vague ...

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Halos + Lassos
Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
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Release Date
March 7, 2006
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