September 20, 2001

Test Spins: American Analog Set

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In the tradition of about a 1,000 other pop bands, the American Analog Set delivers pop of the soft and sad variety. So what makes them different? Well, they’re really good at what they do. On their fourth full-length, the melodies are invariably hard-hitting, the instrumentation lush but restrained.

“The Postman” is a wistful ballad with a thick bed of guitars and repetitive lyrics. “Gone to Earth” picks up the pace a bit and incorporates cool, tinkling piano and vibraphone. Of course, “picking up the pace” is relative, and nothing here really gets faster than a mild shuffle. “Million Young” is the closest to an outright rocker, with fuzzy guitars and a dense rhythm.

“The Kindness of Strangers” could be improv-rockers Tortoise doing a pop song, with spacey guitar chords and an upbeat chorus. The best song here is the folksy Tom Petty-ish story “Aaron & Maria,” but the entire album is worth checking out for any fans of intelligent pop music.

Archived article by Ed Howard