Linda Smith's often-brilliant recording career began with a series of homemade, one-woman cassette releases, songs from which are compiled on Preference. These recordings are probably the best setting for Smith's songs: her moody pop compositions sould like late nights locked in a small bedroom with a four-track, but there's something in her recording style that gets past the usual low-fi conventions and actually makes the occasionally tinny sound work in her benefit -- her guitar work, her smooth arrangements, her simplistic percussion, and her conversational vocal style all combine to form something of unparalelled intimacy and warmth. Hence the large number of gems on Preference -- there's the rich swell of "But is She Happy?," the conversational thrum of "Girl on the Train," the 4-track 60s-pop recreation of "An Ideal View of the Ideal City," and amazing covers of the Raincoats' "In Love" and Burt Bacharach's "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" All of which probably makes Preference Smith's best release -- unfortunately enough, her gradual move to more elaborate recordings situations somehow sacrificed the unexpected pleasure of these early selections.
Preference (Selected Songs, 1987-1991) Review
by Nitsuh Abebe