The City on Film

American Diary

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Bob Nanna's first album as the City on Film, 2004's I'd Rather Be Wine Drunk, was an interesting but somewhat half-baked experiment in spontaneous songwriting, supposedly written, recorded, and mixed in a single afternoon. Rather than try to replicate that album's hotel-room intimacy, the former Braid and Hey Mercedes frontman wisely chose to find himself a band. Even better, the band he found features most of Seattle indie rockers Minus the Bear, whose propulsive guitar-driven attack gives Nanna a much-needed kick in the pants. The album is bookended by two versions of "Mary, I'm Ready," a solo mope that sounds like a leftover from the debut. In between, the four songs with Minus the Bear are instantly memorable, hook-filled pop songs that are far superior not only to I'd Rather Be Wine Drunk, but also to any of Nanna's previous efforts. The shuffling "Astray! Astray!" sounds vaguely like the Decemberists covering a tune from the Cure's The Head on the Door, and the hushed "Well, It Goes Like This," with its oddly-mixed guitars and murmured, echoing title hook, skirts Modest Mouse territory, but "Pony's Last Trick" and "You're Gonna Need That Patience Soon" sound like the brilliant pop songs Hey Mercedes were shooting for but never quite captured. The record's only real flaw is its frustratingly short length.

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