I have raved about Pollard's solo twosome from 2006 of From a Compound Eye and Normal Happiness, and claimed that they were amongst the best albums in the GBV-related catolog. 2007 saw the release of another combo, the edgy Standard Gargoyle Decisions, and the focus of this post, the mellow and pop-whimsical Coast to Coast Carpet of Love (which I'll abbreviate CTCCOL from here on out). The familiar recording process of Todd Tobias laying out all the instrumental tracks, and then Pollard mixing the vocals would be used here. Though the 2007 offerings do not quite meet the level of awesome of Pollard's 2006 albums, there is still stuff to like here, however, there is something wrong with how the guitar sounds on CTCCOL. I would like to hear other's comments on this, but the way guitar is recorded on CTCCOL prevents me from enjoying it more...
There likely isn't anything you won't like on CTCCOL, but there is a chance that nothing will really stand out either. Where FACE and Normal Happiness assaulted with rocking track after rocking track, with tons of variation thrown in, CTCCOL suffers a bit from sameness (similar to Kid Marine and Earthquake Glue). Part of this is the recording process where Tobias' recordings all have a very similar sound, which sometimes make the guitar sound a bit duller.
The standouts on CTCCOL are those tracks that stray from the overall sound of the album. The opener Our Gaze is an all-out rocker with great drums and driving bass, two components of a song I rarely refer to (or notice sometimes). Penumbra has an ethnic twist which makes it a bit of an original for Pollard, and it is my favorite on the album. Youth Leagues is also interesting with its altering drum and guitar beats, but even it suffers from portions where the song slows down to a crawl. Nicely Now is Pollard's best vocal performance on CTCCOL, and lastly, the choruses of I Clap for Strangers and Miles Under the Skin are too good to ignore, even if the guitar parts mute them a bit.
Rud Fins, Current Desperation, Dumb Lady, Slow Hamilton, Customer's Throat, and Count Us In are all nice songs and all, but they all have that similar dull guitar sound. It may just be me, but there is something about the way the guitar has been recorded that doesn't let the sound come out completely. It is hard to explain, but there is something there just draining the life out of the guitar, and subsequently the songs themselves. Shoo-ins otherwise, these tracks all just barely make the playlist.
Current Desperation is a great example. The opening riffs are exactly the sound I'm talking about. It sounds like a guitar and electric piano have been mixed together, and the effect is that it sounds programmed, and not so much like a human is playing the instrument. It is a beautiful song though, and I'm happy including it on the playlist.
If it weren't for the strong final part, Count Us In would not be on the playlist. Customer's Throat has great vocals and melody, and Dumb Lady has grown on me the more I listen to it. Rud Fins is straight-up pop, a fun ride from start to finish.
There is nothing really special about When We Were Slaves, but it might have stood out as the quiet track on a heavier album. Exactly What Words Mean is slightly disjointed, though the somewhat chorus is fun. Look is What You Have, like every other song on CTCCOL, has its moments but is not strong enough for the playlist. Last of the tracks not making the playlist is Life of a Wife. There is nothing particularly wrong with the song, it simply isn't among my favorites.
In general, CTCCOL is a softer album for Pollard, and is greatly contrasted from the same-time-released Standard Gargoyle Decisions. Overall, it is very good, but the recording process that Pollard and Tobias use shows its weaknesses more on this one than any other. As stated many times already in this post, the guitar is recorded in a way to prevent it from allowing the songs to pop. As an album, perhaps this helps create a theme, and the sum is definitely greater than its parts. However, put on a playlist with tracks from the Boston Spaceships or other solo efforts like FACE, the songs on CTCCOL are smaller, quieter, and generally less fun.
Tracklisting (songs in bold make the playlist):
01 Our Gaze
02 Count Us In
03 Exactly What Words Mean
04 Current Desperation (Angels Speak of Nothing)
05 Dumb Lady
06 Rud Fins
07 Customer's Throat
08 Miles Under the Skin
10 Slow Hamilton
11 Looks is What You Have
12 I Clap for Strangers
13 Life of a Wife
14 Youth Leagues
15 When We Were Slaves
16 Nicely Now