Augie March's Strange Bird was just that: a strange bird. With lush instrumentation, bold and beautiful writing, and very consistent quality, it was a rare thing to find in what I can only categorize as Almost-Rock. It was a pleasant surprise, lovely and accessible yet still challenging and serious at times - for every soft ballad my mom liked, e.g. "The Night Is A Blackbird," there was something searing and atypical like "Brundisium," and everything between was solid. Here's the original review. After I got that album, I sought out their earlier LP, Sunset Studies. I think it's most accurate to describe it thus: it's the same, only less so.
The album is still good, don't get me wrong, but it's like when they made Strange Bird, they just doubled the intensity of this album and re-released it. Consequently, while it's still pleasant, and frequently unlike most other almost-rock you hear, it's a little easier to forget. The standouts stand out more, though, and they're great. "The Hole in Your Roof," "The Good Gardener," "There Is No Such Place," "Heartbeat and Sails," all of these are excellent songs, and unfortunately the area between them sags somewhat. Outside of those songs and the final one there is little adventure to be had, nice as it sounds. There is also one kicker - "Owen's Lament," the last song, is fantastic. Long, beautiful, and almost intolerably tragic-sounding, it is by far the best song on the album - at least, in my opinion. I'll let you decide for yourself. Give these tracks a listen, but if you really want the best introduction to this band, go for Strange Bird.