Perhaps the only singer/songwriter to make the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle look like a careerist, Super XX Man (aka Scott Garred, formerly of the Pacific Northwest's late lamented Silver Scooter) has maintained a similar career path to that of his better-known doppelgänger: a series of creaky, lo-fi cassettes and vinyl singles at first, adding other instruments and better sound quality from one album to the next. Garred and Darnielle even have similar day jobs, as a music therapist and a psychiatric nurse, respectively. (Interestingly, the late Kevin Coyne, whose often-harrowing 1970s work sounds very much like a precursor to both acts, held both of those jobs himself.) However, as the Mountain Goats have steadily grown in indie-darling prominence, Super XX Man has until now stayed comparatively low-key. However, X sounds like Super XX Man's musical coming-out party. Garred's tenth album under this project name -- almost all of his albums have Roman numerals for names -- X is a greatest-hits album of sorts, featuring new recordings of songs from previous albums, made with the current full-band lineup co-led by his accordionist wife, Michelle Garred. The increased prominence of Michelle's accordion and drummer/flute player Ali Wesley's angelic harmonies gives X a certain resemblance to Super XX Man's Portland compatriots the Decemberists; in fact, the new arrangements point up the extent to which Garred's boyish vocals sound like Colin Meloy without the put-on English accent. Primarily, however, X makes a fine case for Garred as an underrated pop songsmith, equally capable of utterly charming twee pop reveries like "Hearts and Stars," country-tinged tunes like "Coulee City," and more immediately recognizable Super XX Man songs like the stark "Garage Apartment." If X appeals to new fans, next try 2003's Vol. VI, Collecting Rocks, a lovely and intimate concept album.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason