The Clientele

Alone & Unreal: The Best of the Clientele

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Since they began releasing records in the late '90s, the Clientele have been responsible for some of the most haunting, most pristine, and flat-out best indie pop imaginable. After a listen to Alone & Unreal: The Best of the Clientele, the case could easily be made that the group may be one of the best bands of their era period. Rankings and history aside, the collection gathers songs from each of the band's five albums, plus a song from a 2014 single, showing their progression from a spare, three-guys-in-a-bedroom-sound to the expansive string- and horn-filled experience they became in the end. Each step along the way has its thoroughly autumnal delights, chief among them Alasdair MacLean's vocal and his unique guitar picking. The way that his playing syncs perfectly with the intuitive drumming of Mark Keen and James Hornsey's melodic bass style is always truly delightful. (The addition in later years of multi-instrumentalist Mel Draisey was another snugly fit piece of the sonic puzzle.) Whether they were slowly strumming through achingly fragile ballads like "Harvest Time" or "Missing," waltzing through beautiful midtempo songs that feel like long walks through leaf-strewn country lanes ("We Could Walk Together," "Never Anymore But You") or, very occasionally, getting the feet moving, as on the propulsive Northern Soul-influenced "Bookshop Casanova," they always struck exactly the right note. It's hard to pick favorite high points of the band's career, though it's hard to deny the intensely emotional one-two punch of "Since K Got Over Me" and "(I Can't Seem To) Make You Mine," from the transitional Strange Geometry album that first saw them working with a producer and expanding their sound with keyboards and strings (which were arranged by the band's secret MVP Louis Philippe). Alone & Unreal: The Best of the Clientele is a well-chosen, emotionally powerful selection of songs that works well as an introduction to any poor soul who may have missed out on the group the first time around, but it also works perfectly as a summation of one of the most enriching musical experiences of the guitar pop era.

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