Split albums (even split EPs, even split singles) are nothing new in the alt rock world, but there's something charmingly perverse about a split two-disc set, especially when each disc is an EP -- meaning that both programs would have fit easily on a single disc. But the two-disc/single-package format helps to highlight the incestuous nature of these two bands, both of which include former members of underground Seattle stalwarts Mercury(who also happen to be brothers). Unsurprisingly, the two bands' sounds are nicely complementary: Hidari Mae's tendency toward languid and slightly vague melodies combines with a tendency toward quiet and slightly whiny vocals, all of it built on a foundation of undistorted guitars and cheesy vintage keyboards. Speed Not Steel has a similarly slow and gentle approach, but focuses more on vocal harmonies and hooky melodies -- check out the drop-dead gorgeous "Anything Isn't Everything" and the soothingly lovely "Days Away" -- with tasteful string parts and even the occasional harmonica (which somehow manages not to sound dorky). Both discs are very, very pleasant, with the slight edge going to Speed Not Steel, who will actually make you smile involuntarily at several points in their program. Don't operate heavy machinery while listening to these discs; do snuggle up in a quilt on a couch with someone you like a lot.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2