Various Artists

Air Balloon Road

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During the first years of its existence, Sarah Records adhered to a strict policy of releasing only vinyl and only 7" singles, so when the label first started compiling those records in digital format via compilations like Shadow Factory and Temple Cloud, it was surprising enough; Air Balloon Road was even more of a shock, however, a 23-cut label best-of that effectively distilled Sarah's history thus far into a single aluminum disc, a concession to contemporary purchasing and listening habits that seemed entirely antithetical to the cloistered, indie-snob mentality at the core of the label's aesthetic. Or perhaps Sarah founders Matt Haynes and Clare Wadd realized that CD compilations like Air Balloon Road gave the label's focus real shape -- only when stacked side by side did the scope of Sarah's singles output become truly obvious, revealing both the uniform melodicism and the subtle gradations of this lovelorn, bookish guitar pop. So if you're new to Sarah and willing to shell out the cash Air Balloon Road now commands in collectors' circles, it's a great place to start -- highlights like Another Sunny Day's "I'm in Love With a Girl Who Doesn't Know I Exist," the Field Mice's "Sensitive," and the Sea Urchins' "Pristine Christine" are near-definitive examples of what the label was all about, and they've aged at least as well as any pop music of their era.

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