For a band that's already cut two critically lauded releases of technically proficient, first-rate instrumental noise rock, Brooklyn's Parts & Labor seem inexplicably unsatisfied. Fans should be thankful, though, if the trio's pursuit of perfection continues to produce results like Stay Afraid, their second full-length, and the first release to feature vocals throughout.

"This record is the closest we've come to sounding how we actually wanted to sound," says BJ Warshaw, who handles bass, keyboards, electronics, and shares vocal duties with guitarist/keyboardist Dan Friel. "We were generally going for this big, boisterous, wall-of-sound thing where all of the electronics, drums, voices, and guitars sort of all blend together."

Call it the Phil Spector approach to noise rock—the result is an epic collection of discordant punk overload. Warshaw downplays the changes to P&L's sound, but even if they're not all that drastic, as he says, the arresting results are hard to deny. For starters, newcomer Christopher Weingarten's static, fervent drum blasts add an unmistakable propulsive element to the music, whereas previous releases featured a more dynamic approach to percussion.

The most notable change, though, is the addition of Friel and Warshaw's gripping, soulful vocals, which often recall New Day Rising–era Bob Mould and add a triumphant air to the thunderous drums, squealing electronics, and overdriven guitars. Stay Afraid peaks with numbers like "A Pleasant Stay," whose vocal melodies soar above the crushing beats, and the title track, whose gripping keyboard melodies could give the scary Mr. Wall of Sound himself chills.