Pia Fraus

Silmi Island

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AllMusic Review by

Pia Fraus is hands down the best neo-shoegaze band to come out of Estonia in the 2000s. OK, ever. They also hold the title as arguably the best shoegaze band to operate after the initial wave of bands crashed and burned in the early '90s. Their classicist sound (Fender Jazzmasters, boy-girl harmonies, all the proper pedals) was always spot on, the songwriting wasn’t just copycatty, but full of real hooks and strong melodies, and they never sounded like mere revivalists. OK, maybe they did sound like revivalists, but they did it so perfectly that their best moments were the equal of the best moments of groups like Chapterhouse or Ride, who they so perfectly aped. The even added a few new twists to the shoegaze template by seamlessly integrating cheesy synths and the occasional horn section into the mix. Over the course of three albums and a handful of EPs released between 1998 and 2008, the band never took a false step and always made the dreamiest, gaziest music possible. Silmi Island collects a sampling of their best moments taken from a cross-section of their albums and EPs. Most all the songs were remixed for clarity, some had synth or drum parts replaced, a few (“Deep Purple Girl,” “400 & 57,” “No Need for Sanity”) were completely re-recorded; but nothing sounds needlessly modern or tacked on. All the new parts and new versions sound just as you’d expect the group to sound, and it gives collectors a reason to pick up the collection, too. Also making it worthwhile is the stunning Ulrich Schnauss-mixed version of "Mute the Birds," which sounds like the Free Design hopping on a Pygmalion-era Slowdive track. The CD-only bonus track is truly a bonus too -- a wonderfully energetic cover of My Bloody Valentine's “Strawberry Wine” that makes it clear where the band draws their main inspiration. If you are new to Pia Fraus, this collection should hip you to a truly great shoegaze/guitar pop band, but even if you were there from the beginning, Silmi Island is a perfect way to remember the band and sum up their career in the best possible way.

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