Why do members of indie bands have to release records with side projects? Musicians used to pour all their dedication and creativity into their own group. And now that songwriters release every half-baked idea they record, there's a dreadful lack of editing. Quasi, though, are an exception. Drummer Janet Weiss still moonlights from Portland, OR's dynamo Sleater-Kinney, but one-time Donner Party stalwart Sam Coomes is no longer distracted by his defunct Heatmiser (which now also leaves Elliott Smith completely solo), and Featuring "Birds" shows the benefit of full focus. Strangely, the song Weiss writes and sings is the best: "Tomorrow You'll Hide" has a knelling, chamber-spiritual ambience with a wood-block-accentuated rhumba beat, underpinning her double-tracked, honey vocal. Great! (She should sing lead more; at least her harmonies add flavor throughout.) But Coombs' less vaporous, more hopeful tunes exhibit a command of the '60s/'90s pop lexicon spoken throughout the Pacific Northwest. His melodies are sunny, the guitars jangle with a My Bloody Valentine whir ("Nothing From Nothing" is a less vicious "You Made Me Realize"), and the organ is a harsh, '60s-ish fake harpsichord. Additionally, Coomes' sardonic lyrics avoid knee-jerk sneering, as he postulates our anesthetized, comfortably numb, TV-marketed future in "Our Happiness Is Guaranteed" and warns, "Walt Disney can't make me happy." Even "You Fucked Yourself" concludes without real rancor, tsk-tsk-style, "self-deceit is your worst mistake." Overall, Featuring "Birds" is cheerful, aggressive pop with disciplined writing, not some underfed, one-off mess of ego.
AllMusic Review by Jack Rabid