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Deserter's Songs

Mercury Rev

1998

Buy At Rough Trade
Deserter's Songs
Album Summary

Deserter's Songs is the fourth studio album by rock band Mercury Rev, released in late September 1998. British music magazine NME named Deserter's Songs album of the year for 1998. Limited edition copies of the album came in a brown cardboard envelope-like package, with a stamp on the cover postmarked with the release date, as well as two art postcards. The success of this album was a pleasant surprise for the band. After the commercial failure of their previous album See You on the Other Side, which frontman Jonathan Donahue considered to be the band's best album, they decided to make one more record entirely for themselves, ignoring commercial influences, and expecting to split up shortly afterward. Surprisingly, Deserter's Songs was their most successful album, and made them big celebrities in the UK and Europe, also making a smaller mark in the US.

Wikipedia

Rating

3.02

Votes

10436
Genres
Rock
Pop
Indie
Shoegaze

Reviews

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View Author
Tue Apr 27 2021
4

This sounds like the Flaming Lips' lesser known cousin. A little bit more delicate, a little more misunderstood. I can envision someone putting this on in an apartment in 2004, taking a massive bong rip, sinking into a couch, and fantasizing about making out with Zooey Deschanel. Take that picture, put it inside a snow globe, add a healthy dusting of glitter, and you've got yourself this album. All kidding aside, this was a quite nice surprise, especially after the garbage lineup from last week. A little too precious at moments for me, so not a full fiver, but definitely gets me as hard as a leaked Zooey Deschanel nudie.

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Mon Dec 19 2022
5

This is one of those albums that has grown on me over the years. From originally thinking of it as a good album but not holding much sway over me, to sinking into my brain and becoming a favourite of mine. In this album they come off as a psychedelic R.E.M. swirling around the edges of dream pop tinged Americana. At first I found Jonathan Donahue's vocals left me on edge but now they have a calmling quality over me

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Fri Jul 23 2021
4

J'ai bien aimé Deserter's Songs même si le sujet abordé me paraît assez léger. Cet album raconte l'histoire d'un jeune lycéen fumant des chichas goût double pomme un soir où ses parents sont sortis au cinéma. Après un geste maladroit, il renverse le charbon sur le parquet, qui se retrouve brûlé. Il décide alors de casser l'ampoule qui éclaire la chambre et de disposer ses morceaux sur la partie noircie du parquet. Ses parents rentrent vers minuit et découvrent avec stupéfaction les dégâts causés par la pipe à eau. Il ne croient pas un mot de ce que leur raconte leur fils, le chanteur des Mercury Rev, et lui ordonnent de faire ses valises et de quitter le domicile familial.

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Mon Feb 12 2024
2

The most forgettable album I think I've ever listened to. But then, if there was one more forgettable than this one, how would I know?

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Sun Aug 06 2023
5

Yeah I am very shocked at how good this album is, this is such an incredibly formatted album with a unique sound on every track. I love the ethereal and psychedelic pop sound that is delivered throughout here, most tracks have me floating. The lows are still decent, but the highs are fucking incredible. Favourites: Holes / Tonite It Shows / Endlessly / I Collect Coins / Opus 40 / The Funny Bird / Pick It Up If You're There

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Sun Jan 03 2021
4

This band flopped commercially and decided to make one album for themselves before breaking up, and this was the result. It grabbed my attention and didn't let go. There's a bit too much of the musical saw, and the singing is a bit weak, but they don't lack for heart, and it shines through. Not what I expected when I spun it up. Best track: Holes

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Fri Feb 12 2021
4

This is probably Mercury Rev’s most popular record and for good reason. The amalgamation of alternative rock, pop tendencies and weirdo instrumentation is pretty great here. I had heard some Mercury Rev before this but never a full album, glad I listened to this one. Favorite song: Goddess on a Hiway Least favorite song: Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp

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Sun Jan 17 2021
4

Sounds like Flaming Lips a bit. (Turns out this album was being made in the same studio with the same producer as Soft Bulletin :0)

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Fri Oct 07 2022
4

Kind of a Tim Burton twist on The Flaming Lips. I like.

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Fri Apr 12 2024
4

Whimsical, magical, eccentric alt rock that sounds as much the passion project as it was intended to be. The back half is good but not great, but the front half is stupendous. A clear example of the musical quality that’s achieved when bands make music for themselves instead of a label or an audience. Standout tracks include “Holes”, “Tonite It Shows”, “I Collect Coins”, and “Opus 40”.

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Fri Apr 12 2024
3

Not bad, but didn’t really get me excited. Not annoying though.

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Wed Apr 13 2022
2

Man, that's an album that feels dated. And not dated to 1998, when it came out, but dated to somewhere around the middle of the 60s. And not in a good way. I was going to give it a "meh" 3-star review but there were multiple saxophone solos which lost it another star.

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Tue Jun 29 2021
1

Is this actual music, or the soundtrack to Plan 9 From Outer Space? COOL IT WITH THE FUCKING THEREMIN! Would not recommend.

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Fri Mar 19 2021
5

That first song has some amazing vocals. His voice sounds a lot like a different singer I know who's name escaped my mind. Love the harmony of the music and the voice. It's quite soothing.

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Sun Mar 07 2021
5

I love this record. It’s nice to revisit it.

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Tue Apr 27 2021
5

Never heard this album before—maybe the first song on a Pandora station once. It was like Daniel Johnston and Flaming Lips but with better composition. Like the flaming lips simple but thick bass lines and drum beats filled the back end and twangy voices and guitars, saws, synths, theramyns filled the high end. A lot of weird but well made compositions, very fairytale fantasy, but also with an edge of darkness—a magic mushroom fantasy land. I would love to see this band live, their breakdowns and crescendos are something to behold, almost god speed you. Kitschy, odd, cool, psychedelic, playful, dark, satirical all words I’d use to describe this, all things I love. I want to ding them for “Opus 40s” melody being ripped off of the Beatles “Golden Slumbers” chorus. But I’m not. Added to the library and Unexpectedly a 5.

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Tue May 18 2021
5

Dónde ha estado este disco toda mi vida

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Fri Jul 02 2021
5

very good stuff i will listen to this bands other discography this was a good album!

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Mon Aug 23 2021
5

wonderful example of the nineties psychedelic/shoegaze pop. in the same vein as flaming lips and mazzy star. really enjoyed the spaced out instrumentation and ethereal textures. feels like im stoned or dead

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Wed Oct 13 2021
5

Magnificent from start to finish.

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Thu Dec 16 2021
5

Another band I was familiar with by name only so I had no idea what to expect from this Buffalo NY band - within 20 seconds I thought of the Flaming Lips (having been introduced to them by the otherworldly "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"). Apparently the two bands are or have been connected so I wasn't too far off... ...and in terms of immediate impact on me it is/was the same: I immediately had to stop what I was doing to listen to "Holes" which has a cinematic feel to it, almost visual in its melodies, which continues throughout the album. A vast array of instrumentation - strings, horns, woodwinds, keyboards - make each song consistently engaging; the songwriting keeps each song evolving. If there's a negative that I'm sure will be noted, it could be the fluttery and maybe... not-so-textbook lead vocals :D - I could definitely see that being a turnoff for some but instead for me it works perfectly with and for the music, bringing a vulnerability to the gorgeous and haunting melodies. Overall this is an amazing experience and - like many great albums - not too long at 45 minutes; like "Yoshimi..." before it this album was a revelation for me. If you look for something a bit different yet terrifically melodic and ultimately re-playable (assuming so - I'm on my 3rd spin of it today) this is an absolute keeper. 9/10 5 stars.

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Sun Dec 19 2021
5

that album was so gosh darn beautiful that I listened to it again immediately after finishing it the first time definitely one of those albums too good for me to rate it’s not my FAVORITE album but it’s absolutely in the top five its got so many diverse songs that hit that sweet spot of different genres I’m a sucker for Holes reminded me of Beach House I Collect Coins gave me major Caretaker vibes and The Funny Bird kinda sounded like Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy overall just such an incredible album I’ll try looking into their other stuff if it holds up the same quality

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Thu Jan 27 2022
5

Never heard this before - so good.

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Fri Jan 28 2022
5

I remember getting a dodgy copy of this out of curiosity from a lad at our school who'd got a CD burner, on the strength of Goddess on a Hiway. Holes, Tonite It Shows and Endlessly are a great opening trio, and open up this world of slightly pop, slightly odd miniature symphonic pop. It's so wonderful. I Collect Coins is a nice, slight palate cleanser after that, then Opus 40 is straight back with the beauty again. Then, finally, a did, with the bland Hudson Line. Then another palate cleanser with The Happy End - given its subtitle it's surprisingly enjoyable! Then the sublime Goddess on a Hiway. Just a perfect single. Every note, every play on words adds to it's slightly sinister beauty. It then goes very dark, and slightly less food for a couple of tracks, before going big and joyous to finish with Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp. All in all, a joyous, moving experience.

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Fri Feb 18 2022
5

very good, eclectic interesting sound. Very good with repeated plays.

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Wed Apr 27 2022
5

The half-sister of the Flaming Lips' 'The Soft Bulletin', I've had a soft spot for this album for many years. Delicate and emotive music that rises and falls, with Jonathan Donahue's feeble and vulnerable voice sitting beautifully amongst the quiet moments and riding the crescendos of the weirdly instrumented music. Listening with an objective and critical ear, it could be said that about half of the tracks are quite forgettable. However, as a piece it is much greater than the sum of its parts and is really quite sublime. Rating: 5/5 Playlist track: Goddess on a Hiway Date listened: 26/04/22

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Fri May 20 2022
5

Very chill, beautiful and an easy listen. I really liked this. Some of the songs here make me feel emotions that don't exist. "Goddess on a Hiway" was amazing, so were all the songs after it, finishing off with "Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp". "I Collect Coins" reminds me of something and I can't put my finger on it.. really, there were no bad songs here. I don't have anything to complain about.

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Sun Jul 17 2022
5

Genius album one of the finest.

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Sun Jul 24 2022
5

This album felt like not only multiple genres coming together, but multiple eras as well. It transitioned between themes really well and the songwriting was sneakily intricate. Probably my favorite discovery so far

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Wed Aug 31 2022
5

Had MR down as a fairly experimental band. Their previous albums were fine, but then they suddenly came up with a highly accessible pop album. Perfect sequencing. Perfect atmosphere and very strong song-writing. My favourite record from 1998.

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Fri Oct 07 2022
5

WOW. This hit much harder than I anticipated. Dynamic, perfectly sequenced, powerful, interesting, emotional. Can't believe I'd never heard of them before. I was going to write about how they share the same vibe as the Flaming Lips, but then I read their wikipedia page and saw that was way more accurate than I could have thought!

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Wed Oct 12 2022
5

Absolutely loved this, great discovery for me, thank you

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Thu Oct 13 2022
5

This album is what I think psychedelic sound like, the great combination of instruments and the changes in the voice give it a beautiful sound. The first song alone it's great, however the following songs are just good too. In between some songs there are some recordings that gives the album a more natural look.

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Sun Nov 13 2022
5

An album which grows greater the older it gets. The links with The Band are clear here - Levon Helm appears on one track - with this an updated ghost tour through American history. I like to imagine they're driving through deserted gas stations and tumble down wooden shops on Highway 66.

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Mon Nov 14 2022
5

WOW. the website made a strong first impression. holy wow. how is this totally my shit...? wowza.

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Fri Jan 06 2023
5

Never heard of this album or group. - Sounds like a movie soundtrack - Very dreamy and melancholic - During "Endlessly" there's a part that sounds like 'Silent Night' - Opus 40: "Tears in waves, minds on fire"

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Fri Jan 13 2023
5

kinda weird I played that right before flaming lips as they sound so similar. Feeling generous but I feel like this album is a good 4.5

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Wed Feb 08 2023
5

I loved the whimsy and experimentation of this. A new favorite!

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Thu Feb 09 2023
5

This album pulled me in immediately with Holes and it didn’t disappoint from there. This is a beautifully intricate album, it sounds meticulous and messy at the same time. The vocals accompanied the breezy notes perfectly. I really enjoyed their use of what I thought was a Theremin or straight up saw but apparently they patented their own instrument called a Tettis Wave Accumulator, so that’s pretty neat. I didn’t expect to be handing out a 5 to this one but here we are, this was great. 5 stars

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Thu May 25 2023
5

The only question is whether Hudson Line stops this album being 5 ⭐️ or not? It is extraordinary in so many ways - a big, ambitious sound that keeps an incredible psychedelic sound all the way through Hudson Line doesn’t fit the feel or sound of the album at all and has always felt jarring But the rest is so good I think we’ll go for full marks The wailing guitar on Funny Bird probably makes up for it all by itself

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Thu Jun 15 2023
5

Totaly new for me and i love it!

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Wed Jun 21 2023
5

I... I reallllly liked this album, like first listen, loved it. So now I am going to have to wait sometime and give it a second listen. Might be just right time right place for me but this is an awesome album I have never heard of at all.

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Thu Oct 05 2023
5

I enjoyed this more than expected. Also crazy that I did not know this before. It seems like a twist on the wall with influences of a musical. I'm torn between a 4 and a 5 but I feel like this album will grow into a personal favorite so I'm going with a 5 star review for future reference

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Thu Oct 26 2023
5

This is one of the first albums on here that reminded me it's not about loving the album, but you should definitely have listened to it at least once in your life. Great album.

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Fri Nov 03 2023
5

Perfect for the nights you wanna let it all out. Sequencing is amazing

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Thu Nov 30 2023
5

Such a good psych pop/rock album, v reminiscent of the flaming lips! I listened to this a lot back in the day when I read about it in an NME magazine (it was my friend's dad's and I picked it up cos it was about Kasabian) the mag had a feature about the 10 year re release of this cult album which intrigued me. This sound was v up my street. I especially liked goddess on a hiway, holes and opus 40, top tracks

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Sun Jan 07 2024
5

Banger after banger after banger. After banger. It has been a long time since I bought into an album as quickly as I did this one.

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Mon Jan 15 2024
5

This is that late 90s/2000s sort of pop prog that I remember, but never got super into, probably because I lived in a small town and this stuff wasn't on the radio. I wish I had, but now I get to, so it's all good. This type of music feels kind running through a field with all your friends.

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Wed Jan 31 2024
5

I bought it on vinyl. That is all

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Wed Jan 31 2024
5

Never heard of this album or group. Very dreamy and melancholic and I'm glad I discovered this, will add this along with Velvet Underground to my list of albums I need to purchase.

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Fri Feb 02 2024
5

I was not really familiar with Mercury Rev, knew the name of the band but not much more than this. And that was actually pretty good! Their songs are at the crossroads between a precious indie rock, with post- or prog-rock leanings, well carved melodies and a hint of shoegazing. Sometimes sounds like an updated version of the Floyds. I'll probably give this another spin(s).

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Fri Feb 02 2024
5

New to me. Awesome discovery!

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Wed Feb 07 2024
5

Indie “The Wall” era Pink Floyd

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Wed Feb 14 2024
5

Well damn, took about 2 seconds to see why people were making Flaming Lips comparisons, but then it turns into so much more. Amazing songwriting, production is so full, there's not a single song i didn't like. Even had a couple of weird interludes to satisfy that part of my brain too. Banger.

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Fri Feb 16 2024
5

"Deserter's Songs" is the fourth studio album by American rock band Mercury Rev. The listed genres are chamber pop and Americana. Unbelievably, both fit to a certain degree. This was pretty much a last ditch effort for the band after a commercial disappointment from their last album. Lead vocalist and guitarist Jonathan Donahue became motivated with a meeting with the Chemical Brothers who were big fans and then composed melodies after listening to childhood records. The album was produced by Donahue and former Mercury Rev member Dave Fridmann. The album did well hitting #27 in the UK and brought them unexpected popularity in the UK and Europe. Loud strings and Donahue's high- pitched voice open "Holes." Piano is carrying the melody. There's horns. Weird synth noises. Dreamy, abstract and maybe autobiographical lyrics. Wow! Does this sound like the Flaming Lips' "The Soft Bulletin." And no surprise; Donahue was a member of the Lips on their first album, this album was being recorded at the same time as "The Soft Bulletin" and Donahue and the Lips' Wayne Coyne were exchanging ideas and both albums had the same producer in Fridmann. The third single "Opus 40" keeps the strings going. A quicker pace with piano, the Band's Levon Helm on drums and a tuba. Kind of a mysterious message as a girl keeps trying to kill herself but can't. Things lighten' up on "Hudson Line." The Band's Garth Hudson opens with the sax. An electric guitar shows up. Traveling from NYC to upstate NY. This album was recorded in upstate NY. Donahue wrote "Goddess on a Hiway" while he was in the Flaming Lips and decided to record it ten years later. Melancholy piano keys. A common rock beat and a soaring chorus. Weird guitar feedback (Lips' influence again). A doomed relationship. The album closes with "Delta Sun Bottleneck Blues." I did not see a techno house song coming. A dance beat. Playful, bouncey piano. An airy flute. Horns, synths in the background. A playful ending. This is a great album and so different from their earlier pyschedelic, shoegazey stuff (which I also like by the way). Obvious comparisons and similarities to the Flaming Lips' "The Soft Bulletin." The music is unique, cheerful, dreamy, futuristic and big sounding. The producer Dave Fridmann would be known for that. He has quite the indie music resume as a producer. This is an album needs a listen to.

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Fri Mar 01 2024
5

Going into this album, the most important factor in me loving it is the fact that I also love—and a LOT more, I should add—The Flaming Lips' album THE SOFT BULLETIN. I'll save my exact opinions on it for when that actually shows up, but to put it in short, as a piece of music it's a very good contender for my top 20, if I ever wanted to make one. Anything that sounds like it would naturally appeal heavily to me. Although, with that said, while there are a rather large number of spots here that remind me of THE SOFT BULLETIN, I don't wanna act like DESERTER'S SONGS isn't its own thing. It's not a dream pop record, for one; and it's not nearly as grand as THE SOFT BULLETIN can be. DESERTER'S SONGS is way more of a rock record, with its saxophone lines and guitar parts. And while DESERTER'S SONGS is more restrained, it's still a very cinematic listen—I mean, they wouldn't master this thing to 35mm film print if it wasn't. Plus it's got a few more musically odd moments than THE SOFT BULLETIN did—just check that untitled instrumental appended to the last track. But I don't wanna act like my love for THE SOFT BULLETIN isn't a factor here. It absolutely is; I wasn't excited to listen to this thing until I saw that there was a whole section on its Wikipedia page about how they shared the same producer. Not to mention, to quote Wayne Coyne, "I think without DESERTER'S SONGS being so significant, THE SOFT BULLETIN would probably have not been followed too much." In that sense, at least, I owe a lot to DESERTER'S SONGS. Without it, it's likely I wouldn't have "Waitin' For A Superman" or "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate", or even "Fight Test", "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (Part 1)" or "Do You Realize??". In that sense, even if I didn't like it, I'd have to give it SOME respect. And luckily, I do like it, a lot. Not as much as THE SOFT BULLETIN, but it's up there. And me relating it so much in my mind to THE SOFT BULLETIN, by the way, is a HIGH compliment, believe me. I had such a large smile on my face during the first track when I realized how similar they sound. I can't really give anything that evokes that kind of reaction from me anything less than a 5.

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Tue Oct 06 2020
4

much better then I though it would be

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Tue Oct 27 2020
4

This helped me understood what made Mark Linkous and Sparklehorse so wonderful. The vocals took some getting used to. Certain instruments came across as cheap, especially the flutes at the beginning and some of the organ throughout. But while I can do without cheap flute, give me cheesy organ licks seven days a week.

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Thu Oct 01 2020
4

I had to double-take that this wasn't a Flaming Lips album. Recording history makes sense. Holes, Opus 40, and Goddess are particular highlights. Great album overall.

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Thu Apr 08 2021
4

Ret spændende album. Nærmest som et film musik album til en Tim Burton film. Lugter lidt af Queen og har mange gode numre på. Kunne sagtens tåle et genlyt

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Thu Jul 15 2021
4

Surprisingly good, got lots of Pink Floyd vibes from the instrumental parts

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Wed May 05 2021
4

Another cool post-punk pre-alternative album. I thought this one was interesting. There are times when it sounds like Bruce Springsteen, albeit with much different subject matter. It's easy to see the seeds of a lot of the music I grew up with in the 90s in this album. It goes by really fast, but every song is solid 4/5

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Tue Jan 19 2021
4

floaty, ethereal. there were saws and possibly theramins at parts. really interesting album and I enjoyed it a lot.

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Fri Feb 26 2021
4

Didn’t have time to get all the way through but it was intriguingly weird. 3.75

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Fri Jan 22 2021
4

Like the flaming lips made sgt peppers. Very full sound with interesting choice of instruments

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Fri Feb 12 2021
4

Not really my thing but it was good.

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Tue Jan 19 2021
4

I didn't appreciate this album at the time because I was 🤘 VERY METAL 🤘 but these days it really hits the spot. You could definitely make some Flaming Lips comparisons. Fave track - while "Goddess On A Hiway" and "Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp" are contenders, I have to go with "Holes"..... so b e a u t i f u l . . .

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Fri Feb 12 2021
4

took me back. not sure that I'd ever actually listened to the whole thing

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Sun Feb 28 2021
4

Wasn’t expecting much, and didn’t get much from the early album. But the second half really turned it up! Loved the way it moved between genres. Excited to play this again

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Mon Jul 12 2021
4

A lot of it sounded cool and sad but I lost interest in most of the sound just over halfway through. 7

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Mon Jul 12 2021
4

8/10. Really chill, and pleasant to listen to. Had some fairly interesting instrumental sections. Lyrics were present when they needed to be, and were well written when they were present.

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Thu Jun 17 2021
4

love this - still have cd in the car

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Mon May 31 2021
4

Beautiful album. Sounds as fresh as it did back in 1998.

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Sun Jul 04 2021
4

Very nice, fantastic background music to listen to while working. I'll save and re-listen to the album for that purpose. Still 4 and not 5 stars, because after one listen I find it hard to recall much of the music apart from that it was enjoyable.

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Fri Jun 11 2021
4

I love being surprised. This is very good.

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Mon Jul 19 2021
4

Beautiful, lush orchestral indie with a good variety of songs and sounds.

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Mon May 10 2021
4

beautiful - psychedelic and fun. love the trumpets, so pretty. feels like a mix of shoegaze and American folk music. good to work to!

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Fri Jul 23 2021
4

Le générateur est en réelle perte de vitesse en ce moment, Nikos parlerait même de "bad buzz" pour l'outil de Robert. A suivre.

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Fri Jul 23 2021
4

I dig how cinematic a lot of these arrangements are. I totally hear the similarities to The Soft Bulletin, it’s like they’re two sides to the same coin. Very cool.

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Tue Jul 27 2021
4

Nice little gem here from Mercury Rev. They're often compared to a mellower Flaming Lips which is understandable. Some great post rock, psychadelic song-writing and melodies here and Holes, Goddess on a hiway and Opus 40 are highlights.

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Tue Jul 27 2021
4

Spotify has sent me "Holes" a few times in the last year & I had Goddess on the Highway on high rotation back in the day. The rest I hadn't heard. I'm impressed with the arrangements/orchestration and background vocalists. I like the blend of electronic and traditional instrumentation - and it seems like the members of The Band influenced the sound - although I'm sure mostly in my mind, since they only played on two tracks. The song-writing is great, The Funny Bird is epic, and I may have given a higher score with a stronger lead vocals.

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Wed Jul 28 2021
4

Some really great moments on the album that overshadow some of the lesser “trippy” elements

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Tue Aug 10 2021
4

Great vocals. Smooth vocals and harmony. Chamber pop indeed. Loved the use of strings.

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Fri Aug 20 2021
4

We had not heard of this band. Some really neat moments, very Beatles inspired, but some parts were a bit uninspired - they could have added more variation and countermelodies instead of more theremin.

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Tue Aug 31 2021
4

I did not expect that... good album.

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Fri Sep 24 2021
4

Very good early indie rock. Not perfect, but a fun ride.

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