By Sean Howe
Updated October 09, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Pernice Brothers: Seth Kaye

Since Joe Pernice abandoned the country-rock of Scud Mountain Boys for the Bacharachian pop of Pernice Brothers, increasing polish has threatened to sterilize the dark ambiguity of his songs. So it’s a delight to report that Live a Little — despite kicking off with a song called ”Automaton” — finds Pernice throwing off the shackles of overenunciation and fussy production. Grand piano, strings, and horns actually soften the edges of their metronomic precision, and the track about a relationship-salvaging road trip even erupts with handclaps.