Ken Stringfellow is beloved among pop obsessives for his work with the Posies, and he's been a sideman to the stars, sitting in with R.E.M., Big Star, the Minus 5, the Green Pajamas, the Fastbacks, and many other great acts. However, for unknown reasons, his solo career hasn't attracted the same degree of attention, and for folks who are curious about his work on his own but can't decide quite where to start, Lojinx Records have come to their aid with I Never Said I'd Make It Easy, a sampler that pulls together 16 songs from Stringfellow's solo catalog. Of the 16 songs on I Never Said I'd Make It Easy, 12 originally appeared on 1997's This Sounds Like Goodbye, 2001's Touched, and 2004's Soft Commands, while two cuts came from an EP with fellow Posie Jon Auer, one was drawn from the B-side of a rare single, and one track, a low-key cover of the Replacements' "Kids Don't Fellow," is previously unreleased. Melodically speaking, Stringfellow's solo work isn't especially far removed from his music with the Posies, but the tunes on I Never Said I'd Make It Easy are recognizably more downbeat than his best-known stuff with the band, and the tone of this music is significantly more dour, with the ache of broken hearts and the bitterness of failed relationships a dominant recurring theme. I Never Said I'd Make It Easy is dominated by bummed-out pop, but it's great bummed-out pop, with subtly beautiful melodies and intelligent lyrics, while Stringfellow's production smarts are estimable, blending organic acoustic sounds with a dash of electric guitar grit and a healthy splash of electronic polish, resulting in a powerful and engaging product. "Don't Break the Silence" and "Any Love (Cassandra et Lune)" are pocket-sized masterpieces, and the closing cover of "Never My Love" manages to sound nearly as lovely as the Association's original while taking on a smokier, more mature affect. If I Never Said I'd Make It Easy isn't everything you might need from Ken Stringfellow, it certainly confirms he doesn't need his many talented partners to make great smart pop music.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming