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+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
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+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
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The Sword Of God
Touch And Go

Considering the grass is always greener on the other side, it's no wonder I never got too into Quasi's music or, for that matter, into a lot of bands from the Pacific Northwest (despite its lush greenness, ha). Too busy trying desperately to climb that fence (in the pouring-down rain no less), I missed out on dozens of great artists, including this emo-tinged, indie-pop duo from Portland, Ore.

Sometimes, you look everywhere but here — to the future rather than the present, to that fabulous straight hair rather than your own unmanageable kinked version, to the "cool, cool" New York City bands, away from "mediocre" locals. Just one of those annoying, unavoidable human habits — wanting what you can't have, having what you don't want. But having Quasi's new album, The Sword of God, doesn't make me not want it anymore.

The Sword of God is a jangly collection of contagious pop tunes made melancholy by a dark songwriting style. Having lived in Portland, Ore., for almost all of my 24 years, I know what rain feels like, and I think Quasi — vocalist-guitarist-keyboardist Sam Coomes and drummer/vocalist Janet Weiss — translate those feelings through music. Their songs have the split effects of rain: sad and dreary, but also very nurturing and optimistic... and making life greener, which is what we're always looking for, yes?

With the vintage sounds of the keyboard, the cries of the saxophone and the jingle-jangles of the tambourine, "Fuck Hollywood" feels at times — perhaps befitting the song title — theatrical, dramatic and impassioned by Coomes' sometimes satiric singing. The cabaret-like, piano-driven "It's Raining" is a fun, infectious track, probably most appreciated by us Oregonians; offering something to sing along to 90 percent of the year: "It's raining, it's raining — there's nothing you can do/ ... So go ahead and cry/ But that won't keep you dry." That's right folks — get those feet wet! Led by Weiss' low-key vocal, the very '60s-ish "The Curse of Having It All" combines cathedral-like keyboard and airy drumming for sweet melodies.

Weiss, also Sleater-Kinney's drummer, told me in a recent interview that The Sword of God would be "less depressing" than previous releases. Just don't mistake less depressing for not depressing. The album still expresses the melancholy nature of Quasi (and rain) — just this time, it's a bit greener. And that's always a good thing.

by Jenny Tatone

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