Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

This is the way to do it. A properly posh and keenly-selected collection of band and fan favorites from the tribe that split open to become Grand Archives, Band of Horses, S, and (a lady named) Sera Cahoone. Call them time travel super troopers; elements of each of those smothered-by-hugs Seattle groups make up the melodic, melancholy, dialectically anxious and delicate anti-anthems swarming sixteen tracks deep here. Hardly Art has done an ace job of stringing up pearl upon pearl, purifying and balancing the sound of the scrappy original songs, and tying it together with a fact-filled little book (hardly a booklet) thrilling for followers and fun for beginners.

I bring up the phrase “super troopers” as they remind me of ABBA, for in a weird way Carissa’s Wierd was the alternately icy and passionate twin sister of those pop opera experts. But instead of bouncy bass and sweeping ballads, on They’ll Only Miss You When You Leave, CW explores pretty little wounds, beautiful but heartbroken days, bonfires with lovers clenching more than clutching each other. All set to the strum and pluck of a booze-soaked acoustic left after a party, some really gorgeous strings, and an occasional surge in emotion best exemplified by the photo of the “Ugly But Honest” sign on the lyric sheet. Strong emotions of all type are shared, with (S’s) Jenn Ghetto’s nectarous voice often more than hinting at a bitter center.

The handsome but tense tones of Mat Brooke (Grand Archives) is a perfect accompaniment to everywoman Ghetto, the two of them destroying the tradition of the masculine male with the demur feminine counterpoint. Through the piano-bedded impressions of the closing title track, a neo-madrigal like “Phantom Fireworks,” or the more general reaching “Die” (all hale singles that weren’t, or at least haven’t been yet) these are both young spirits caught in awkward confusion, and no one is coyly flirting or pretending to be who they aren’t.

There is a problem with that: So much arch sincerity, the immersive sad-core could slash razors into the psyches of more tender listener. But fans of the bands spawned from Carissa’s Wierd already know that, from the releases that came later from each of its parts. Though the big booming pine-rock of Band of Horses or Band-style Americana of Grand Archives is merely hinted at here, for those too depressed by S or find Cahoone too traditional will find them all in wonderful balance together on this anthology. It would be amazing to think what would happen if a reunion were to ever occur now, hint hint.