Sloan

A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005

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Like any good power pop act, Sloan's career follows a specific arc: tentative, appealingly messy debut that's tied perhaps a little too closely to the sound of the time; a breakthrough second album that captures them finding their voice as musicians and songwriters; a third album that's generally acknowledged as the masterpiece since it finds the group stretching and getting a little more sophisticated; a fourth album that's a little harder-rocking because the group is trying to disguise the fact that it's settling into a comfortable, albeit appealing, role as craftsmen; a fifth album that finds them to succumbing to that very fate; and from that point on, they make variations on the same ingratiating blueprint from that point forward. Each album after the third record is good, and certainly the devoted will find merit in each subsequent record, but less dedicated listeners will find the records after that masterpiece to be a little samey, and rightfully so: there are subtle differences between the records, but those differences are indeed so subtle that only the dedicated can explain what separates, say, Pretty Together from Action Pact. But that's why hits compilations from power pop bands are always quite good: they capture the highlights from those samey records to make a tight, dynamic record that's among the group's best. That's certainly the case with Sloan's A Sides Win, which gathers the band's 15 singles, adding the new "Try to Make It" for good measure. While this doesn't contain all of Sloan's great songs -- the opening pair of "Penpals" and "I Hate My Generation" from 1994's Twice Removed aren't here, for instance -- it does contain all the major points, and when they're gathered together, they prove that Sloan has been a band that delivers consistently tuneful, tasteful, smart guitar pop. Of course, that's been a bit of their undoing on proper records -- there's little to differentiate anything after One Chord to Another -- but in terms of a hits collection, it works wonders, making for a cohesive, entertaining listen that proves Sloan is one of the finest power pop acts of its time.

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