Saint Etienne

Interlude

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Fans of Saint Etienne who aren't quite dedicated enough to pay attention to the singles could be easily tricked into thinking Interlude is a new studio album. Given a different title and the subtraction of the two extraneous remixes at the end (the single mix of "Boy Is Crying" and the Trouser Enthusiasts mix of "Lose That Girl"), this would stand up pretty well as a follow-up to 2000's excellent Sound of Water. With the exception of three new compositions and their cover of the Beach Boys' "Stevie," these songs were recorded during the sessions for that record. So they tend to have the same graceful, minimal, melodic touches. In a few cases, the songs rival or eclipse material on Sound of Water, but they probably weren't included because they didn't fit the general, easygoing flow of the immaculately sequenced album. "Northwestern" is one such example of B-side brilliance; although it's one of their best overall moments, Sarah Cracknell's melancholic vocals would have found the track misplaced with the remainder of the record. "Shoot Out the Lights," which isn't a Richard & Linda Thompson cover, is the most organic of the bunch, a jumpy throwback to their Good Humor days. As for the new songs, they're promising if not much of a departure. "Mountain Rain" reigns supreme over the two other newbies, graced with swirling electronic drizzle and Cracknell's just-out-of-bed whispering. But what's most remarkable about Interlude is that Saint Etienne can deliver the goods over a decade into their career, even on a disc of extras. Admittedly, those who didn't care for Sound of Water's spare production won't find much here. But those who did care will find a group in top form, to say the least.

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