The Forbidden EP/Alas: The Special Edition

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Here's a lovingly packaged (cardboard foldout ‘n' booklet) pairing on one CD of two late-‘90s mood-pop gems, 1997's The Forbidden EP and 1998's fourth LP, Alas. Originally issued on Buzz, both were cut from similar cloth, and now fit snugly together. Culled to a duo from the L.A. four that made 1996's watershed Three Sheets to the Wind, just guitarist/leader Jeff Martin and surviving second guitarist Dan Seta -- assisted by Alas guests such as ubiquitous drummer Joey Waronker and Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur lending voice -- the pair manufactured 15 supreme mediations on solitary brooding via dreamscape four-string guitars, perfectly metered to metastasize in Martin's dusky, mumbly baritone pleading (blending well with Auf Der Maur's sweetness). These recordings' hushed silences shine as brightly as the burbling of textural brilliance (don't miss "Bass Crawl," which is what it does tethered to Crazy Horse-on-downers guitars, or the ghostly shimmering of "Scrawny" and the ominously aching "Yesterday's Unwinding"), set to Martin's curious inflections of inertia, somnambulism, and longing. These laconic rudiments (on par with Red House Painters and American Music Club, 400 miles north) fuse in two masterworks, the tom-tom-beholden "Jump Up" and the gliding, xylophone and oboe-twinkling "Only in the Desert," as timelessly warm and beautifully barren as the desert L.A. was. Martin alit for similar pastures on 2000's Hearts of Palm, 2001's Levitate, and 2005's louder The Long Gunman, but this makes great revisiting (Note: Skip the bonus CD of incoherent film cue outtakes of nothing much and five lesser songs.)

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
blue highlight denotes track pick