I don't know that I remember an album in recent history where I have seen more contrasting reviews than Edge of the Sun. Some (most probably) sing its praises, while others have called it the band sleepwalking through material). Some call it a departure, while others call it a return to form.
I will put myself in the camp who think it's among the bands better works. I discovered the band through their 2000 album Hot Rail. 2003s Feast of Wire album generally stands as the band's high point.
Their journey since that album is merely the problem of being prolific. The band has never really sat still, and always have ambition for their music which blends Tex-Mex, noir, and variety of cultural styles from Greek to Saharan.
As I said Edge of the Sun seems to be warmly recieved by most, and I fall into that category. While I never took my eye off the band, this feels like a record of note.
Certainly, most will say it is the variety of guest stars who make the album, and it probably is the assembly of voices that are a point in its favor- Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, Neko Case, and of Horses' Ben Bridwell, Guatemalan blues singer Gaby Moreno, and Manu Chao-collaborator Amparo Sanchez.
Meanwhile, the songs seem to fill an array of space that it probably could be called a departure and a return to form. Funnily and truthfully, before reading Uncut's review which mentions same, I thought of two very 'pop' touchpoints- Neil Finn & Crowded House, and the later REM albums like Around the Sun.
The pop songs work well regardless of context, and the songs that you 'expect' similarly are enjoyable. Fans should check it out, as well as those who are fans but have lost track.
In 1995, a trio from Portland called Everclear released an album for Capitol Records called “Sparkle and Fade”. My world was rocked, and college radio was abuzz. Everclear took a tried and true formula (angsty post-rock coupled with pop hooks) and made it sound fresh. This was the first time most people had heard of them, but for those who were so moved, we found they had released a debut a couple of years earlier, which only made their potential grow. Minds buzzed with what was ahead for this band. I figured that they might be a great indie band- a 90s version of Husker Du (or The Replacements or the Pixies or whoever). However, something unexpected happened. Everclear became huge. They were as big as they got in 90s artists.
Two years later, they were on the top of the world and released “So much for the Afterglow”. It was a solid follow-up, though it maybe started to some limitations (Everclear were not going to be the 90s version of Husker Du, genre-changers; Much too big to be a cult artist, though)
Everclear went into Y2K still ruling the airwaves. They released two albums (Songs from an American Movie), which probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but is the kind of ambition that does bands in. Vol 1 was a hit (top 10), but Vol 2 which promised the darker side, stiffed (only reaching 66). Looking back now, I left the band here, and I am not sure why. I loved all the previous stuff, but I did not continue on. Not sure what was going on in 2000, but there you go. Was it that the single “AM Radio” may have been a huge hit, but was a silly “Shiny Happy People” moment and I figured I would pass? (Likely).
I wasn’t the only one. Everyone seemed to give up after that, and I am only vaguely aware of them since then (Art Alexakis at this point, being the only original member), so there were new albums in 2003, 2006 and (if you knew, I don’t think I did) 2012.
Everclear always seemed head and shoulders over their peers, but sure enough here they were on the nostalgia circuit. In 2011, they did one of those things irrelevant bands do, they released an album for Cleopatra that featured re-recorded versions of their hits and covers.
It is easy to say they were no longer on my radar, but I started to hear that they had a new album and it was actually quite good. I remember how excited I had been back in the 90s, and I had to check out “Black is the New black”.
The good news is this does not sound like an irrelevant band. It actually sounds like the same band who released ‘Sparkle and Fade’ (and if you don’t know, the bands singles were usually the album’s weakest tracks. Maybe I should have realized that before I passed on Songs from an American Movie Vol 1 15 years ago). It would be incorrect to say this album is better or even on par with those first few albums. It probably shouldn’t of course(nearly all bands are tapped out by album #9) That said, this was probably what I would have guessed on that first listen, that these guys would be going strong. It is without a doubt Everclear (which means it won’t win any new fans. If you didn’t like them in the first place…) but it is good to get a new crop of tunes that still have plenty of fire and heart.
If you were an Everclear fan back in the day (as they say), it is worth checking out Black is the New Black. Way much better than you should expect from a band that has been playing 90s nostalgia shows for the last decade.