The Autumn Defense, side project of Wilco members John Stirratt and Pat Sansone, have filled their fourth album, Once Around, with layers of harmony and nostalgia.
One part Americana, one part pop, Once Around establishes itself strongly from the start. "Back of My Mind" and "Tell Me What You Want" inspire the same kind of wistful reflections as The Wonder Years. The latter is a classic break up song and its big, gradual crescendo makes it stand out from other tunes on the album.
Most of the album could be described as easy listening, clicking along at a pace no faster than a Carousel slide projector. The layers of vocals, along with the occasional string overture, make for a comforting sound that the listener can just sink into.
At times Once Around can be a little dull (I’m looking at you, "The Rift" and "Don’t Know") and attempts to shake things up are mixed: The upbeat "The Shallows of London Town" is refreshing, but the dark, smokey sound of "Once Around" feels too uneasy.
On the back third of the album, the breezy chorus of "Step Easy" will induce some swaying and maybe even closed eyes, but the other tracks are unremarkable.
At its best moments, Once Around will have listeners singing along and thinking back to the past; however, there’s just a bit too much filler between these moments and it can be easy to tune out in between.
Once Around will be released November 2 on Yep Roc Records. The Autumn Defense will play The Casbah in Durham on November 12 with Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 day of the show.