Following an inspired remix collection, some shifts in the lineup, and a few more years of experience, Matt Priest and Canasta followed up their enjoyable debut We Were Set Up with The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather, an hour-long collection that deftly balances between being very much of its time and place and carving out something individual at the same time. From the beginning, with the lengthy "Becoming You," there's a sense that the band's ever more comfortable with the big and dramatic: the extended organ-led opening in combination with Priest's high, focused vocals suggest a pretty clear line of descent from acts like U2, James, Coldplay, Arcade Fire, and more. But whether it's the slower builds or the sense of brisk focus instead of huge arena-aimed stomps, Canasta don't go over the edge, and the sweet violin-led conclusion is more of a winning nod than a huge attention getter. It's a good omen for the remainder of the album, with the spiky massed vocal moments from their first album echoing here; the lead instrumentation changing on a dime between guitars and pianos and whatever else, and the rhythm section kicking along. Priest also shows he's good for genre shifts without overstating the case: "I Don't Know Where I Was Going with This" isn't a classic country/rock song as such (though it might not be too far from the Band, turning into a lovely horn-driven mini-epic toward the end), while the dramatic "Appreciation" could almost be his take on a Lee Hazlewood number in a higher register, with its dramatic pauses, horn breaks, and a sense of a sad, wasted space to fill. The whole band has a great ear for performances that complement each other's work and provides the icing on the cake: consider the delicate end of "Mountains of Molehills" as a strong example, with guitar and keyboard lines softly dancing around each other.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett