Various Artists

Closet Pop Folk

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This follow-up to Closet Pop Freak, a classic document of the indie pop scene in mid-'90s L.A., will probably be most interesting to Negro Problem and Wondermints fans in search of rare tracks. They won't be disappointed by what they find here: from the Wondermints, a pair of minor gems -- one faintly countryish ("Runnin' Thru the Nite"), the other typically lush ("Reality Check") -- from TNP, a beautiful full-band version of "Smudges" (a solo-acoustic bonus cut on their first album), plus two otherwise unavailable songs. "She's Flying Naked Through the Air" is sheer lilting lunacy, while "Amsterdam" is as willfully obnoxious as the Velvet Underground at their most experimental, but without the aid of electric instruments. Yes, this album is an all-acoustic affair, and it's hard not to be impressed by the sophistication and skill these virtually unknown bands bring to the party. The hooks are subtler than on Closet Pop Freak, but after a few listens, they sink in just as deeply. Each group gets at least a couple of songs to make an impression and it turns out that some of the more obscure contributors steal the show. The Shambles' "Clouds All Day" is ingeniously constructed and lyrically astute; Dreamworld's delightful "This Time" might as well be the second coming of the Bangles; and Martin Luther Lennon's delicate, whimsical offerings ("Joan of Mark," "Aquarium") never fail to draw a grin. Closet Pop Folk is a worthy sequel and a convincing argument for the joys of independent, scene-based music.

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