Sunday, October 15, 2006

If You're Feeling Sinister

Stars of Track and Field, Centuries Before Love and War, Sidecho/Wind-up

If you're feeling sinister, you've
come to the wrong place. If, on the other hand, you're experiencing a
rush of blood to the head...

With a name like Stars of Track and Field, I was expecting Belle and Sebastian-like indie pop. Well, the Low-meets-Keane sound this Portland combo conjures up isn't a world away, but there's more feedback and electronic effects than their moniker would indicate.

I use the word pleasant too much, but it's the first one that springs to mind. Centuries Before Love and War is competent and tuneful. Augmented by producer Tony Lash (Elliot Smith) on guitar and keys, the trio sounds like they know what they're doing, and there's nothing obviously "wrong" with this disc. But while it's too dynamic to qualify as bland, it isn't that exciting either.

Centuries, their full-length debut, follows 2005 EP You Came Here for Sunset Last Year (these cats dig wordy titles). It's a perfectly respectable effort. There's nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about--either as band member or listener--but that's part of the problem. There's no apparent risk going on either.

This recording is too safe, too smooth, and too indistinct for me to recommend in good conscience. I wouldn't count the threesome out, though. I passed on the Fray, too, and look at them now. It's too soon to say whether "Say Hello" will go the way of Grey's Anatomy anthem "How to Save a Life," but KEXP has been giving the dream-pop bauble plenty of play, so you never know.

Endnote: In case you've ever wondered, I review every album that comes my way--as long as I don't actively hate it. This includes CDs sent from out of the blue, like the one above, as well as titles purchased for myself, like Tales of the Forgotten Melodies. Initially, I only covered records about which I was enthusiastic, but from time to time, I'll continue to review those that don't make as much of an impact. By the way, I love If You're Feeling Sinister. And I have a soft spot for A Rush of Blood to the Head--much as it pains me to admit it. Image from the AMG.

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