A six-song EP that appeared between the two albums proper, without sharing any songs with either, Barely Real essentially extends the same musical and lyrical spirit of Frigid Stars with a couple of slight but intriguing changes woven in. Admittedly, that won't be apparent on the first song, "Realize," which fully confirms that Codeine's combination of deliberate pace and electric guitar playing, along with a softly sung rumination courtesy of Stephen Immerwahr, is pretty much its compositional mode rather than affectation. Those put off by earlier Codeine CDs won't want to continue; those taken by the band's way of doing things will happily embrace it. From there, Barely Real makes its careful way over about 25 minutes, with some guest performers popping up to leaven things. One Jon Fine adds "noisy guitar" to the mix on "Jr.," with a quick, stuttering main riff to its credit, while David Grubbs contributes both piano and arrangement for "W." It's a highlight of Barely Real, essentially a Grubbs solo performance, but still sounds exactly like something Codeine would write. Other high points include the echo and burying in the mix of Immerwahr's voice on "Hard to Find," and the slightly surprising conclusion, a cover of MX-80 Sound's "Promise of Love" done in a bit of a late-night jazz club style with more typical Codeine interjections towards the end.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett