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Music Review: Golden Smog – Another Fine Day

Golden Smog, the super-group comprised of big names from bigger named bands, released their fourth CD this past July. Another Fine Day's tone is set early on and is tipped away from the alt country sound they are known for. This album is guitar oriented, dreamy sounding, with 70s influences. The album consists of fourteen original tracks and one cover from the Kink's, "Stranger" written by Dave Davies, and sung by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Jayhawks' Gary Louris. Filling out the band is Dan Murphy of Soul Asylum, Jody Stephens of Big Star, and Marc Perlman and Kraig Johnson also of the Jayhawks.

With so many talented musicians, you might think egos would get in the way, but it wouldn't appear so from the cohesive way the album comes together. Individual tracks do carry the obvious fingerprints of those who wrote them and there is a wide variety of writers all with slightly different styles, but the tracks ebb and a flow making the album on the whole as good as each of its parts.

Another Fine Day starts out strong with "You Make It Easy." It jumps right into that breezy '70s feel I mentioned. The mood of the melody is carefree and its lyrics are hook-like and somehow familiar. Written by Johnson and Louris the best way I can describe the song is comfortable or like an old friend you're seeing again for the first time – recognizable yet interesting.

"5-22-02" gives me that very same feeling, so much so I was sure it must be a cover. I was nearly certain I had heard the song before and tried to put my fingers on the original artist – I was wrong. It's an original for Another Fine Day and also written by Johnson and Louris with help from Holly Marilyn who sings background vocals on the track. The song warmly recalls a memorable date, May 22, 2002. Kraig takes the lead vocals on this and his voice has a nearly hypnotic feel as the numbers are almost chanted above the surreal instrumentation. If you hold onto nothing else as the song fades away, it will be that "5-22-02" was an important day to those the song is about.

Tweedy takes the vocals on "Long Time Ago" and "Listen Joe," two of the songs he shares writing credits on, and there is a shift, albeit slight. The songs themselves are stripped down, simple guitar melodies backing his deeper richer voice, steering the over-all sound a bit closer to the alt-country the band was once known for.

The songs themselves are more story-like with a folk flavor, but so much they stick out as two pieces to a completely different puzzle. They are still Golden Smog, and they blend with other tracks in a way that is hard to put your fingers on.

The same can be said for the tracks Soul Asylum's Dan Murphy wrote and sings, "Hurricane" and "Never Felt Before." "Hurricane" tips the scales toward a pure rock sound with Murphy's distinctive vocals. There is an urgency to the beat and riffing guitar that matches the lyrics describing a life of frantic confusion, rounding out the metaphors.

Murphy shows his diversity as he completely changes gears with the dreamlike ballad "Never Felt Before." The song is moody and hazy and reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Still the song holds similarities to "Hurricane" as he delivers a series of metaphorical puzzles in the lyrics.

For all the individual styles and talents that come together to form Golden Smog, this Minneapolis Minnesota super-group has put out what is probably their best album to date. Aside from being a showcase of their individual talents, Another Fine Day is a solid album; warm and comfortable with songs you'll enjoy spending the evening with.

About Connie Phillips

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