The Jayhawks’ “Sound Of Lies” (Reissue) **** / “Smile” (Reissue) ****1/2 / “Rainy Day Music” (Reissue) ****
This week, American Recordings reissued three albums by Minneapolis band The Jayhawks. 1997’s “Sound Of Lies,” 2000’s “Smile” and 2003’s “Rainy Day Music” have all been repackaged with a few bonus tracks and demos and all three of these records deserve another listen. Leader Gary Louris is likely to be under-rated. His songs are often straight and to the point, building mostly off of an alt-country vibe with some shades of Americana and power-pop thrown in for good measure.
Of these three records, “Smile” stands out the most with its strikingly harder edges and boisterous choruses that occasionally bring to mind A.C. Newman’s work with The New Pornographers. The fuzz wears on this band well, since it fits with Louris’ knack for strong melodies. Some of those edges are felt throughout moments on “Sound Of Lies” as well, but that album has more of an introspective, retro-seventies tinge, building off of the famous California sound and bands like Big Star, whereas “Rainy Day Music” is the gentlest of the three in tone, with a more organic, rootsier sound.
Are these reissues worth getting? Yes. Especially if you didn’t have them before. If you already own these, the three to six bonus tracks you are getting may not be worth your while, although hearing stripped down demos and live versions of some of these cuts really gives them new life. The natural sound of the bonus tracks on “Rainy Day Music” in particular really standout. Without the studio sheen, these songs benefit from the rawer energy.
Focus Tracks (“Sound Of Lies”):
“Think About It,” “Sixteen Down” and “It’s Up To You” “Think About It” and “Sixteen Down” fuse high-quality mid-tempo songwriting with a seesaw of fuzzed-out tension, while “It’s Up To You” would sound simultaneously at home played by a strong honky-tonk band and on a late-period Tom Petty album.
Focus Tracks (“Smile”):
“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” “Somewhere In Ohio” and “(In My) Wildest Dreams” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” was the album’s key single and may sound familiar to many since it did get licensed I a number of places at the time of its original release. This record does have moments that sound at home with their other work, but “Somewhere In Ohio” and “(In My Wildest Dreams” both have fuzzer, upbeat (and slightly electro) edges that make them stand out. It’s as if they listened to the momentary bits of unrest on “Sound Of Lies” and decided to improve on the formula to appeal more to the CMJ crowd.
Focus Tracks (“Rainy Day Music”):
“Save It For A Rainy Day,” “Tailspin” and “Madman” This record in general is more gently mannered. The songwriting quality is the same as the others but the edges are sanded off, leaving more of an acoustic “dad-rock” sound. “Save It For A Rainy Day” is a beautiful love song, whereas “Tailspin” is a nice bit of roots rock and “Madman” sounds a bit like a Crosby, Stills and Nash outtake.