The Autumn Defense - Circles

Sometimes, “moonlighting” albums, in which band members take a break from the regular routine of their “day job” band and record for the hell of it, can possess a different type of quality. Treated as a haven from the pressures of writing hit records, musicians usually collaborate on side projects purely for their love of music, and this often shows in the finished article.

Circles is the second album swirling with warmth and cosy sunsets by The Autumn Defense. It’s a musical entity formed by bassist John Stirratt, taking a break from sensations Wilco, and frequent session musician Pat Sansone. It’s certainly a breezy effort, with a thirty-seven minute running time, and each song consistently conveys a lush inner-city sunshine which is all the more surprising considering the album was recorded in almost entirely bleak weather.

Sounding like a distinct fusion of early Bread, Ken Stringfellow, Elliott Smith and Nilsson, Circles is so soothing in its lack of urgency that it’s the perfect antidote to the daily bustle. The tracks deliberately meld into one absorbing ambiance, and each of the ten songs occupy the stereo so pleasantly that it’s all over before you know it. Potentially, this could be a less expensive Pet Sounds for the early evening timeslot of the day.

Out of all ten songs, Why I’m Like This is a standout cut from the album, and has all the structural factors to draw a comparison with Chicago, or at least at a point when they were still good. It’s followed nicely by Tuesday Morning, a song so blissful you can almost “hear” the sun shine through Sansone’s keyboards.

As for a mellow vibe, it’s hard to find another album that comes close to achieving the ideals perfected here by Stirratt and Sansone. They’ve managed to cross-blend their NY/Chicago heritage and carve out an album that could bring a Californian sun to any cityscape. Yes, Stirratt will clearly rush off back to the ‘office’ with Wilco, but we should all hope he fits The Autumn Defense’s third album into his hectic schedule at some point soon, as we might need it as a remedy to the daily grind. Right now though, Circles is a perfect encapsulation of a much needed warm embrace, particularly as winter is just around the corner.



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