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Hazy shade of winter

About 30 minutes into the conversation, Brian Garth explains why we’re standing out in the cold.

“I’m telling you, this right here is the color and temperature of the album,” the Black Camaro singer-guitarist says, his voice supplying the heat that the chilly air lacks. “That’s why we’re here.”

“Here,” is Lorenzi Park on an overcast Wednesday afternoon that’s steadily sliding into evening.

Soon, the streetlamps will flicker on above us, their glow as dim as the fading daylight.

A small flock of geese descends overhead and lands next to a nearby pond where Black Camaro singer-guitarist-keyboardist Tom Miller used to fish when he was a kid.

Garth and Miller chose this setting because it encapsulates the feel of their surprise new record, “The Last Menagerie,” which they kept under wraps until releasing it today unannounced.

“It’s like dusk,” Miller says of “Menagerie,” wearing a stocking cap to insulate himself from the cold.

“It’s a gray album,” Garth adds.

“The Last Menagerie” may be a seasonal record, but there’s no Yuletide tunes here.

Instead, the album is evocative of winter’s chill, of renewal.

Black Camaro, long one of Las Vegas’ best, hardest-to-pin-down bands, fond of creative left turns and meticulously assembled albums that it sometimes labors over for years, challenged itself in a different way on “Last Menagerie.”

The band wrote these songs quickly, didn’t overthink things, giving themselves a Christmas deadline to get it done and released.

“The original idea was, ‘We have so many of these little ideas laying around, let’s materialize them into full-on songs, and let’s do it at a really fast pace,’ ” Garth says. “ ‘Let’s not really overscrutinize everything. Let’s just make it rock ’n’ roll.’ ”

“When you have a deadline, you start breaking your own rules,” Miller notes.

This, they did on “Menagerie.”

There’s less studio manipulation here, fewer layers of instrumentation and the songs are a bit more straightforward by Black Camaro standards, though still elaborately arranged despite their more austere feel.

The album has a vague psych rock bent, namely in the form of gorgeously sung multipart harmonies that reflect the best vocal work the band has done.

As such, “Menagerie” stands in stark contrast to the band’s last record, 2012’s dense, excitable “Black Camaricans,” an album of nonstop motion and seemingly endless moving parts.

“Camaricans” is a great record, and so is “Menagerie,” for entirely different reasons: If the former gets your heart pounding, leaves you feeling winded when it’s all said and done, the latter is akin to a long, restorative exhale.

“Excitement is not our intention with this,” Garth says.

Maybe not, but this is a record worth getting excited about all the same.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin.

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