I am a sucker for The Alternate Routes, exhibit A and exhibit B. Their full-length debut, “Good and Reckless and True” was one of the best CDs of 2005 in my opinion; it was passionate, earnest, and organic. They followed this up with the highly respectable “Watershed EP”, which certainly whet the appetite for this long awaited sophomore release.
“A Sucker’s Dream” is no sophomore jinx, but I’m afraid it is not going to help make The Alternate Routes a household name – I hope I am wrong, because these guys have a monopoly on talent. I just don’t think it is maximized on this record. Normally, vocalist Tim Warren contributes a rather extraordinary performance, but on this release he seems to take a backseat to everything else going on. That is a shame. I kept waiting for more spine-tinging moments like those experienced when listening to “Ordinary”, but such moments never came. The songs are a bit busier, which is cool at times, but it often distracts from the organic feel that made “Good and Reckless and True” a winner for me. The one moment that is stripped down is the breezy “Desdemona”, but this tune is so drawn out and dull even backing vocals from Patty Griffin fail to salvage it.
The good news is that The Alternate Routes have maintained their sense of melody and lyrical competence in the majority of the songs. One-liner gems like “The future’s nothing new – just another day to miss the things we used to do” permeate the record. The chord changes are wonderful and Eric Donnelly’s lead guitar work rivals that of Dada. And even though he seems to have avoided vocally challenging himself this time out, Tim Warren still sounds charming and soulful. Standout tracks include the festive “On and On We Whisper”, “Ain’t No Secret”, the Lennon-esque “All a Dream”, the high octane title track, and the very catchy and reflective closer, “A Better Way”.
If you enjoy Ryan Adams, Matt Nathanson, or The Finn Brothers, check out The Alternate Routes.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 11