In my mind, this is the sound of riding on buses in the gray rain. To my ears it is a tone poem about Olympia, and growing up, and why. More tonal than a My Bloody Valentine LP and with less concession to traditional notions of pretty than Sonic Youth, this album manages to be all at the same time quiet fast loud slow, a beautiful melancholy miasma. A superlatively complete album in scope and execution, one of a small handful that make my list of truly excellent albums -- this is much more than a collection of fine songs. To sum: essential.

The facts: The second LP (by sequence of release; the later self titled album on Honeybear was recorded first) by Olympia's Unwound. Released on Kill Rock Stars on CD, cassette, and, most appropriately, LP. Nine songs. First album to feature drummer Sara Lund.

The songs: (an interjection, first: this album is sequenced decently enough for CD, but works even better in the two-sided LP format -- each side opening and closing with well chosen songs for those purposes, with the remained of the songs making just the right bridge between...)

  • Entirely Different Matters -- opening with a squeal of weird loopy feedback, then it's right into a totally classic Unwound groove of driving bass, messy guitar, and tightly splashing drums. Stuttering to a grinding halt for the yelp of the bridges and back into a looping refrain before slowing to a smooth finish.
  • What Was Wound -- Lyrics about ambivalence backed by a pounding chorus.
  • Envelope -- This track has, in the chorus, the kind of complicated droney dissonance that sounds melodic in ways than can't be pinned down to power chords.
  • Hexensene -- Mogwai could easily cite this track as an inspiration for their entire career.
  • Abstractions -- a brilliantly calm instrumental that closes side 1; featuring producer Steve Fisk on some kind of keyboard pads and noise. This is the kind of song that floats between tense and calm, happy and sad, quiet and loud, managing to be all at the same time rather than none of them. Music that makes my mind wander and a song that leaves me seeing more than I hear. This track could go on forever.
  • All Souls Day -- A bit of a quiet lead in prepares you very nicely for things to get very loud and chaotic as Justin confesses that he doesn't understand death very well.
  • Usual Dosage -- That rare thing, a song about heroin that is neither a rehash of the Velvet Underground nor completely vapid. A smoothly rhythmic build filled with hidden latent energy that has to explode before falling apart, only to build back again.
  • Arboretum -- Features a truly hypnotic drum part in the verse, one which i often find absorbing all of my attention, to the complete disregard of the rest of the parts of the song. This song has the kind of quiet sensitive noise that Sonic Youth can only bring themselves to hint at for moments here and there. I can't say much more about this song other than that it brings back incredibly vivid memories of hanging out as a teenager in the dorms at the Evergreen State College.
  • Fiction Friction -- Closure. Verification that this album was intended for gray rainy days.

sometimes you suspect it could almost rain forever...

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