The Features – Exhibit A

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

The Features (at least at the time of this album) boasted some truly excellent band member names:  Parrish Yaw, Rollum Haas, Roger Dabbs, and along for the ride, Matt Pelham. Also cool – they were from Sparta, Tennessee. Just a bunch of bored rural kids who found purpose in music. Dabbs, Yaw, and Pelham went to middle school together in Sparta. Dabbs and Pelham started a band and both eventually went to college in Murfreesboro; Yaw attended college in nearby Cookeville and soon after joined the band. A few personnel moves later found Hass taking over drum duties in 1998. They all dropped out of school and recorded and toured and were signed to Universal within a few years. Exhibit A came out in 2004.

What I Think of This Album

Matt Pelham sings like he is a hair’s breadth away from absolutely losing his shit. Somehow he rides this wave of intensity without ever losing his balance. Frankly, it would be a lot less interesting if he just gave over and started screaming; it is much more compelling to listen to his impassioned delivery and marvel at how it hints at a monumental effort to keep it together. What makes it all the more perverse is that the half-crazed delivery is often in the service of songs of surprisingly sentimentality:  “The Way It’s Meant to Be” is a song of paternal devotion to an infant; “The Idea of Growing Old” foretells the simple satisfaction of entering dotage with a partner. 

You know what I love? I love a song about loving music. Granted, I can’t think of an example right now, but I am sure they exist and that I own some of them. “Blow It Out” brims with joy as Pelham cleverly recounts how listening to vinyl replenishes his soul. I get it, Matt. “Here I found that I’m alright.”

Just as critical to the band’s sound as Pelham’s vocals is the keyboard work of Yaw. The songs are sturdy and melodic but Yaw’s lines somehow both soften the tunes and also add an otherworldly atmosphere that elevate them above even very good garage rock. 

I can’t say that every track is a standout but many are, including the borderline scary “Exorcising Demons” (sort of like Clinic if they wore trucker caps instead of hospital scrubs), the self-parody of “Me & the Skirts,” the ambiguously menacing but also romantic title track, and the closer, “Circus.” The rest are merely somewhere from good to very good. Overall, though, this is a goddamn blast to listen to.

Speaking of fun names, the main producer was Craig Krampf (who has an oddly mainstream resumé) and Mike McCarthy, who has worked with Spoon and …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Blow It Out” is one of my favorite songs ever.

Release Date

September, 2004

The Cover Art

Average. Sort of messy but at least it’s colorful (I like the blue).

Elf Power – Walking With the Beggar Boys

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

2023 was the Year of Elf Power. Not really. But sort of. During the year, I saw Elf Power live; bought two Elf Power albums (only one of which I am keeping); saw the Elephant 6 documentary (The Elephant 6 Recording Co.); and read a book about the Elephant 6 collective (Endless, Endless:  A Lo-Fi History of the Elephant 6 Mystery). My main takeaway? Laura Carter is not getting enough credit.

What I Think of This Album

This sixth proper Elf Power album (not counting the covers album) is a bit of a departure for the band, moving away from the Tolkienesque imagery of their psychedelic work and embracing more conventional sounds. It is a refreshing modulation, succeeding as both a sign of growth and skill and also a reminder of relevance. Way to go, Laura Carter and Andrew Rieger (and others).

“Never Believe” is basically power-pop, with some creative keyboard effects and Rieger’s plaintive vocals. A glammier tone is struck on the title track, with the added feature of guest vocals from Vic Chestnutt, and an insistent repetitive guitar line and some tinkling piano and call-and-response backing vocals.

“Drawing Flies” is fantastic with its coy sighing vocals and not-coy fuzz guitar. There is a simple, jangly prettiness to “Evil Eye,” whereas “Don’t Let It Be” charges ahead with punkish energy. And “Hole In My Shoe” gradually earns its place on the album, with some clever instrumentation. 

The neo-bluegrass elements of “Empty Pictures” provide a beautiful backdrop for an unexpectedly poignant ballad. The closer is “Big Thing” and it is a big thing indeed, muscular and loud and, dare I say, joyous.

Less successful is the folky “The Stranger,” which is way too precious, coming off like a kudzu-strewn Robyn Hitchcock covering Simon & Garfunkel’s “Richard Cory.” The band doubles down on creativity with “The Cracks,” an ominous piece replete with industrial percussion and creepy keyboard lines, though that isn’t to say it’s a pleasant listen. “Invisible Men” never develops into anything distinctive.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Empty Pictures,” though it is a close call with several other tracks.

Release Date

2004

The Cover Art

Boring and self-indulgent. I really don’t need to see your kids and pets on your album cover.

Saturday Looks Good to Me – Every Night

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

I am pretty sure this was the first Saturday Looks Good to Me album I bought, and as is often the related case, it is my favorite SLGTM record. Researching the liner notes has made me feel incredibly untalented and underachieving.

What I Think of This Album

If I could only rescue one SLGTM from the Christo-fascist mob that will someday come to reeducate me, this is the one I would save. Mastermind Fred Thomas upgraded the production values without losing any of the retro charm. He also turned in an excellent set of songs, recruited a compelling new female vocalist in Betty Marie Barnes, and improved his own singing considerably. I defy you to not like this album.

Right from the start, tearjerker “Since You Stole My Heart” demonstrates all that is right with the album. The heartfelt, nuanced and powerful vocal from Barnes (I think) is priceless, surrounded by a clever and fresh backing that includes saxophone and an organ interlude, and just-this-side-of-sappy lyrics that firmly root the piece in ‘60s girl group aesthetics (as well as sonics). The strings outro is gorgeous, to boot.

The back-to-back placing of two of my favorite songs on the album is likely what cements my love for it. The sweet, acoustic “When the Party Ends” features a late arriving and eye-opening rhyme scheme, some of Thomas’s best singing ever, and a gauzy, cocooning string arrangement. “Dialtone” is equally witty with another prime performance from Thomas; the arrangement builds slowly at first, with spare bass, subtle piano, and percussion joining the acoustic guitar until Thomas calls the rest of the band in, who participate with enthusiasm in what sounds like an indie-pop hootenanny.

That these tracks are followed by the amazing “We Can’t Work It Out” (nice) is almost too much for my heart to bear:  Berry Gordy and Phil Spector are clapping in their graves over this one. “Empty Room” hangs out in the same neighborhood, sort of like the precocious little sister who tags along with the big kids:  not quite able to achieve at the same level, but very impressive and confident nonetheless.

High drama informs the accusatory “All Over Town” (Barnes, again, I think), which is Motown on steroids. “Lift Me Up” starts out sounding like the Jam’s “Town Called Malice,” but Thomas is a more committed revivalist than Paul Weller; the vocals by Barnes (I’m almost sure) are excellent. Thomas delivers a heartfelt and delicate ballad in “When You Got to New York,” with some excellent lyrics and a nice accordion accompaniment, and of course the strings come in later.

Spector-ish drums propel the jaunty “Until the World Stops Spinning,” which ends up being a hipster putdown (“But the girls think you’re a joke / With your jacket from the thrift store and your little rum and Coke”). Thomas thus ends up delivering a modern tale wrapped up in the same retro clothes the subject of the song is mocked for.

Thomas takes the lead on “Keep Walking,” pushing against the upper limits of his range, but the rest of the energetic, quasi-gritty track works just fine.. A much more effective Thomas-sung number is the dark, lush, Zombies-adjacent (Those drums! That organ! The vibraphone!) “If You Ask,” which contains a surprisingly lengthy, dense, sometimes disorienting instrumental section that justifies the label “epic;” at almost five minutes, it is probably the longest song the band had ever recorded up to that point. 

One small stumble is duet “The Girl’s Distracted,” which is too lighthearted and silly, though the musical performance is excellent – the string arrangement in particular comes close to saving the track.

As usual, the band is a constellation of Thomas’s friends and peers (18 this time), several of them with ties to the corporate world:  Warn Defever (His Name Is Alive); Elliott Bergman (Wild Belle); Scott Sellwood (who is an attorney and has been an executive at Meta and YouTube); Charles Koltak (a public school teacher in Chicago); Scott DeRoche (a member of Drunken Barn Dance with Sellwood and possibly also a digital marketing executive); Joseph Hintz (a financial analyst with a mutual fund family); Nate Cavalieri (the Sights, and also an author of a Lonely Planet travel book and a journalist); Justin Walter (who has trumpeted with Iron & Wine and His Name Is Alive); Michael Herbst (Antibalas, and also an executive at Morningstar); and Faith Gazic (Terror At the Opera), plus vocalists Kelly Jean Caldwell; the previously mentioned Barnes; Ko Melina (the Dirtbombs); and Erika Hoffman (Godzuki, His Name Is Alive).

The Best Thing About This Album

Thomas’s songwriting and arranging are at their peak here.

Release Date

September, 2004

The Cover Art

I am very into the pink tones, and the duo-toned image of accordionist is cool. The font is subpar.

Sahara Hotnights – Kiss & Tell

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

This is another one of those unfortunately overlooked albums in my collection. Playing this again for the first time in a long time was eye-opening. This album is fantastic! Why had I forgotten about this?! HOW had I forgotten about this?! I blame the anhedonia from my debilitating depression. I am def going to have to check out the later Sahara Hotnights albums.

What I Think of This Album

This is the album Sahara Hotnights was born to make. For all its pleasures, the sound of Jennie Bomb threatened to lead the band down a dead end street (whereupon they would have pulled switchblades out and commenced to kicking ass, but still). The band was wise to transcend their garagey roots, leave out the more traditionally hard rock elements, and lean strongly into pop. The result is a shiny, peppy third album that gladly barters brashness for sophistication. Lead singer Maria Andersson sounds more assured, the harmonies of Jennie and Johanna Asplund are given more attention, and keyboards abound. None of this is to say these songs are bland or boring – Sahara Hotnights still rock with sweaty abandon. It’s just now there is some glitter and eyeliner mixed in with that sweat.

Whether or not it is a coincidence that the change in sound arrives with their major label debut, Sahara Hotnights takes full advantage of the big money opportunity immediately. Opener “Who Do You Dance For?” is like a grittier Blondie; the bass tone is excellent, the Asplunds’ harmonies are killer, and Andersson sings with buckets of attitude.

Putting up a fight for top honors is “The Difference Between Love and Hell,” with an unstoppable bass drum, catchy riffing, a keyboard line that the Cars would have sold all their Vargas girl posters for, a hypermelodic chorus, and some of Andersson’s best singing. I don’t think the fade out was the best choice for an ending, but everything else about this track is fantastic.

“Hot Night Crash” is a high octane rocker that is a mix of power pop and garage rock, arguably more muscular than anything on Jennie Bomb. “Empty Heart” initially gets by on Andersson’s sassy vocals, but the keyboard line that comes in is what puts the song over the top. And as on many of these tracks, Andersson is allowed to sing in a way she wasn’t on the previous album, to the benefit of all; she nails it on the chorus, for sure. 

The synthy goodness of “Stay/Stay Away” is irresistible, as the snaky line slithers its way into your heart, which is otherwise occupied with the desperate lyrics. A nasty guitar part and pummeling drums characterize swaggery, new wave influenced “Walk On the Wire.” The band comes together for the enthusiastic “Mind Over Matter,” and Andersson’s voice breaks appealingly on the sinewy “Stupid Tricks,” which uses a subtle organ to good effect.

There is a sort of rockabilly guitar sound to “Nerves,” and “Keep Calling My Baby” turns the volume and tempo down a tad to almost get within a fjord of ballad territory. The “ah ah ah ah ah”s are to die for and the melody is excellent, with Andersson communicating vulnerability, resentment, and heartbreak.

Andersson and drummer Josephine Forsman wrote all the songs together. The band thanks Jari Haapalainen (producer of the Concretes and Camera Obscura) in the liner notes. No one is credited with keyboards, which is unusual.

The Best Thing About This Album

The confident growth the band displays.

Release Date

July, 2004

The Cover Art

This is an alternate cover shown here, with a blue background and black text; my version has a white background with orange text but I could not find a good image of it online. Again with the two-toned aesthetic (on the version I own). This is a very new wave design, and I am a big fan. The diagonal tilt, the stripes, the sexy shoes, the stylish poses, the font for the band name. Excellent all around.

Trash Can Sinatras – Weightlifting

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (Part 3)

Three members of Trash Can Sinatras toured the U.S. in 2018, and I went to one of those shows (which was focused on the Cake and I’ve Seen Everything material). It was an acoustic show, and I have to assume I was looking at Frank Reader, John Douglas, and Paul Livingstone, but I guess I don’t really know. It was a subdued, laid back affair – I think I was sitting the whole time – but I was glad I finally got to see (three-fifths of) the band.

What I Think of This Album

The missing “the” from the band name was probably the least controversial change the quintet had to weather by the time of this fourth album. In the intervening years, their U.S. distributor refused their third album (A Happy Pocket); their label Go! Discs went under shortly thereafter (after Polygram purchased a majority stake); and the band had to sell their Shabby Road studio and declare bankruptcy. It took eight years after Pocket for this album to appear; it was the first Sinatras album released in the U.S. in over a decade. The band financed the album themselves, with assistance from the Scottish Arts Council.

There is probably a reason the first cut is titled “Welcome Back,” and that it forcefully jumps out of the speakers, with a muscular sound not really heard on previous albums. As a declaration of a comeback, it is fairly convincing. The Aztec Camera comparisons from the debut reappear on “All the Dark Horses,” which sounds like one of the better tracks from the Stray-era (particularly the mandolin-like guitar part).

Among the few other uptempo tracks are “Freetime,” which features some quality guitar work, and the stinging “It’s A Miracle,” on which the band throws in timpani and strings. The rest is slower stuff, some of which I honestly just skip. Fellow Scots Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) adds vocals on ballad “Got Carried Away,” which is appropriate, as much of this album sounds like the sibling of his band’s Songs From Northern Britain. “A Coda” is delicate and fragile, with a lovely vocal from Reader (who goes by Francis in the credits this time) and some overdubbed speak-sing that works very well.

The production on “Country Air” saves what otherwise might be a too-sleepy, bland number. Similarly, the gentle wah-wah of “Leave Me Alone” complements Reader’s plaintive, resigned vocal. The title track – relegated to the final slot – offers up optimism and some nice vocals, with unusually present bass and drums for such a light song, but this is sort of a middling track. The album is not an essential, but it will prove satisfying for true fans of the band.

Andy Chase (Ivy) mixed the album.

The Best Thing About This Album

The fact that the band found the wherewithal (spiritual as well as financial) to make this album.

Release Date

August, 2004

The Cover Art

Yeah, I approve. Splashes of color, good use of shadow, nice composition.

Tegan and Sara – So Jealous

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

At some point, Tegan and Sara were reduced to the simplistic tag of “Canadian lesbian twins,” which only goes to show how the truth sometimes does not tell the whole story. It also speaks to the dehumanizing impact of the media, but that’s another story. Among other things, the pair are activists, firmly entrenched in the fight for LGBTQ equalty, and despite their growing success and fame, seem grounded and genuine, having recently released an album of songs they wrote as teenagers. They also collaborated on a memoir about their teenage years. Tegan and Sara seem like good people.

What I Think of This Album

Without knowing more, you might have thought this was Tegan and Sara’s bid for stardom. In fact, that happened several years later, when they successfully embraced a more mainstream pop sound (via 2013’s Heartthrob). Which isn’t to say that So Jealous wasn’t the initial attempt. It is significantly glossier than If It Was You, with many more keyboards and a decidedly ‘80s/new wave feel. At the same time, the twins’ (separate) songwriting has matured, so what you get is a more consistent batch of songs buffed to a high sheen. That’s nothing to turn your nose up at, and I for one have no real problems with artists’ efforts to achieve greater success.

Tegan is slightly overrepresented, with eight songs to sister Sara’s six. Tegan’s work strikes me as more immediate, going straight for the limbic system with traditional pop elements. Take the stacked harmonies on “You Wouldn’t Like Me” or that song’s build from acoustic guitar to fully arranged juggernaut. “Take Me Anywhere” is as pure a song of teenage love as any, with more hooks than there is acne in the average high school classroom. Her streak continues on wordy  “I Know I Know I Know,” with a propulsive bass line and gurgling synth part, and “Where Does the Good Go,” a song of stark lyrical demands and unvarnished emotion.

Her best song may be “I Won’t Be Left,” with powerful vocals (including a great call-and-response/countermelody vocal) and a choppy rhythm. Her most fun song, on the other hand, is the pop-punk “Speak Slow,” the song on which guest Matt Sharp’s (Weezer, the Rentals) keyboard contributions are most obviously “Matt Sharp keyboard contributions.” If “Speak Slow” is candy for kids with a predilection for Manic Panic, “Wake Up Exhausted” is a slower, more sophisticated piece, and “Fix You Up” is a fine and pretty ballad.

Sara’s songs are more challenging, and arguably more intricate. “I Bet It Stung” oozes drama and expertly employs dynamic shifts and pounding drums. The gentle pull of “Downtown” is no less powerful for being subtle (though the loud drums contradict the mood and arrangement of the song). Sara gets the title track, which boasts a number of tempo, arrangement, and feel shifts.

“We Didn’t Do It” is spindly and jagged, again with a very new wave sound – like the Cars trying to cover Gang of Four (minus the politics and the intellectual theory). I have to say I don’t like Sara’s “Walking With a Ghost,” which I guess puts me at odds with the White Stripes, who covered it. This is the track that most nakedly apes the ‘80s (I half-expect Ray Parker, Jr. to make a cameo appearance partway through), and is probably the least melodic. “I Can’t Take It” is an appropriately moody piece, all shadows and mist.

Once again, John Collins of the New Pornographers co-produced.

The Best Thing About This Album

Sorry, Sara, but I lean towards Tegan’s poppiness:  “I Won’t Be Left.”

Release Date

September, 2004

The Cover Art

The cover was designed by Canadian artist EE Storey, who has done work for Death Cab for Cutie and the Rentals. I like it a lot, and I think the pile of small, red felt hearts on the black background is a perfect companion image for the songs on the album.

The Velvet Underground – Live at Max’s Kansas City

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 8)

I should but don’t know whether there are any (released) live recordings of the band from the John Cale era. I suspect not, otherwise I think I would easily know. I assume those wouldn’t be unheralded. It would be nice to hear the original quartet, especially Cale’s viola live.

What I Think of This Album

The bad:  there is a lot of annoying ambient noise, including people ordering drinks from the bar; Billy Yule’s traditional rock drumming is totally wrong for these songs. The good: considering this was recorded on a handheld mono tape recorder in 1970, the sound is not *that* bad; this happened to be Lou Reed’s final performance with the band, which is a fortunate bit of serendipity; and of course, it’s the Velvet Underground live.

Sterling Morrison and Lou Reed kick up an agreeable racket on guitar and if the performances aren’t legendary, they are still good. The band was at the end of a three month residency at Max’s, during which time they were also working on Loaded (for his part, Billy Yule went to high school/summer school during the day and then went to Max’s at night). I don’t know if they played two sets every night, but they did this night. The original release culled songs from both sets, but the 2004 reissue I have presents both sets in their entirety. Given how much better the 1969 live albums are, this is really just for hardcore fans.

Note: this album was released before the 1969 albums, but I place it after those in my collection based on the dates of the actual shows.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Beginning to See the Light”? Nothing really stands out on this album.

Release Date

May, 1972 (original); 2004 (reissue)

The Cover Art

I’m not sure what the colorful elements were supposed to add to this standard b/w shot of the venue, but I am pretty sure that the effort failed.

The Weather Prophets – . . . Blue Skies & Free Rides . . . The Best of 1986-1989

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Somewhere in the process of researching British indie, I came across both the Loft and spin-off the Weather Prophets. The Loft were one of the early Creation bands, and after an acrimonious break-up, vocalist/ guitarist Pete Astor and drummer Dave Morgan formed the Weather Prophets. I owned a Loft Best of – and while “Up the Hill and Down the Slope” is a marvelous song – I found I didn’t like a lot on that disc. The Weather Prophets, on the other hand, are phenomenal, and I am so glad I own this unassuming beacon of an album. The band released three albums and then Astor had a solo career, before eventually but sporadically reforming the Loft and playing shows as such.

What I Think of This Album

This is not going to set the world on fire, but it’s a nice soundtrack to the conflagration that threatens to consume us from within. A ripe 20 track collection (two of which are covers), this is a refreshing and completely enjoyable document of late 80’s British indie. Pete Astor has a way with a melody, he has a pleasing voice, and the arrangements and guitar playing are excellent.

Highlights abound, including the dusky and demonic “Worm In My Brain” replete with stellar guitar work; harmonium-fueled, syncopated mini-epic “Joe Schmo and the Eskimo”; sax-threaded “Aways the Light”; and hopeless but tuneful “Almost Prayed.” Equally great are the bouncy “The Key to My Love Is Green,” which finds room for a gritty guitar lead; hushed and gossamer “Like Frankie Lymon”; the yearning and lustful “Hollow Heart”; and a driving (ha) “Chinese Cadillac.” The band pulls off a lovely lullaby with “Sleep” and further delves into the sincere on the charming “Can’t Keep My Mind Off You” and poppy, jangle-riffic “You’re My Ambulance.” “Blue Rooftop” is a delightful, keyboard-heavy ditty. Honestly, I love this album. The covers are Robert Johnson’s “Stones In My Passway” and Dylan rarity “Odds and Ends.”

The liner notes include essays and reminisces by Creation head Alan McGee; band members Astor, drummer Dave Morgan, and guitarist Oisin Little; Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers, and novelist John Niven (I think). Darren Hayman of Hefner is thanked for help with the cover art.

The Best Thing About This Album

The guitars, by Oisin Little, are fantastic.

Release Date

June, 2004

The Cover Art

This is a bit too naturalistic for me. It speaks of poverty and mildew and resignation. I don’t like how it makes me feel.

Washington Social Club – Catching Looks

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Another random budget bin pickup, I am 90% certain I got this at Hi-Fi Records in Chicago. As usual with these kinds of things, I don’t know much about the band. They came out of D.C. in 2002, and this was their first of two releases. They opened for the likes of Hot Hot Heat and the Hold Steady. The foursome was made up of vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Martin Royle, bassist Olivia Mancini, guitarist Evan Featherstone, and drummer Randall Scope.

What I Think of This Album

This is a fun album. It’s pretty much just that simple. The energy on this is off the charts, propelling catchy, scrappy songs that revolve around a strong rhythm section and Martin Royle’s appealing yelp.

The pop-punk of “On the Inside” is taken to another level altogether with the “run for the hills” shouts at the end. “Are You High?” rides a wave of harmony vocals, a bouncy bass, and insistent drumming. The best song is the randy “Breaking the Dawn” with variations of the irresistible early line “When you turned on your radio / Your radio turned me on” – the harmonies, the martial drumming, the needle-nosed distorted guitar lead veering into slight feedback, and Royle’s adenoidal vocals engage in a sweaty dance in the basement. The attempt at emotional poignancy on “Dancing Song” is unnecessary but doesn’t hurt what is a blast of guitar pop, with some great bursts of vocalization at the end. “Simple Sound” is appropriately titled – another fine pop song. “Dead Kid Song” isn’t terribly special but closes strong, and while I don’t love “Backed To the Future,” the chorus is fantastic, with some nice bass work, as well. I detect a slight Jam sound to my least favorite song, “Modern Trance,” but I am not sure I can explain it – this sounds like a deep cut on The Gift. There is a nice change of pace with the acoustic guitar and vibes arrangement in “River and the Road.” As much as I like the bass lines, something about the tone doesn’t seem right.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Breaking the Dawn”

Release Date

2004

The Cover Art

Big ol’ “nope.” I’m not sure what the goal was here, but either that goal was misguided or the execution failed.

The Church – El Momento Descuidado

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 7)

I suppose this is the time to apologize to Peter Koppes. I am prone to assuming all the exciting guitar work on Church albums is attributable to Marty Willson-Piper, but obviously that can’t be true. Willson-Piper has his own blog, and he goes into detail about the band’s recordings and tours; needless to say, he gives Koppes ample credit. Here’s to you, Peter Koppes. You are the Church member I treat way too unfairly.

What I Think of This Album

This is basically the Church unplugged. That’s a great idea; the problem is that it’s poorly executed. The band sounds excellent, of course, but the song selection is criminal.

Fewer than half of the fourteen songs are from the classic period. Also, one of those is “A New Season,” which is a good song, but pales in comparison to many others from that time. There is nothing from Seance and only one song from Heyday. Three more songs are from 2000s era albums, and five are brand new songs. Of those eight songs, I like just two. This should have been an alternate Best of collection, shepherding in new fans. Instead, it is a charming but confounding novelty for devoted fans.

Hearing “The Unguarded Moment” in this setting is eye-opening, and “Metropolis” also benefits from the stripped down arrangement. There is a delicate mandolin on “Tristesse,” and “Under the Milky Way” becomes spooky and sinister, with some high lonesome harmonica in the shadows and a stellar bongo pattern from newish drummer Tim Powles. “Almost WIth You” gets some sweet vibes thrown in towards the end.

There does seem to be some minor studio involvement, with effects on the cymbals (most noticeable on “Unguarded Moment”) and other gilding touches. On the best songs, the band gives an intimate, revealing performance – particularly Steve Kilbey, who adopts the ideal vocal tone throughout and the subtle contributions of Powles. Someone plays the piano on a lot of these tracks, but it is unclear who. New track “0408” is pretty good, and 2002’s “Invisible” is a decent addition.

The Best Thing About This Album

When I say what I like most about this album is the Spanish translation of “The Unguarded Moment” for the title, I am not taking a swipe at the collection.

Release Date

November, 2004

The Cover Art

These portraits from Steve Kilbey don’t add anything to this release, further frustrating what should have been a Church essential purchase.

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