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Carissa's Wierd: They'll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996-2003 (Hardly Art) 

Although Mat Brooke and Jenn Ghetto formed Carissa's Wierd in Tucson in the mid-'90s—they're natives—they found their footing once they settled in Seattle, becoming one of the most revered acts in the Pacific Northwest until splitting up in 2003. Ghetto continues to record under the name S, while Brooke helped Ben Bridwell, another Carissa's Wierd veteran, get his Band of Horses running before forming Grand Archives.

Perhaps if they had signed that Sub Pop contract that they turned down, the band's popularity in the Pacific Northwest would have been matched in the rest of the country. Hardly Art, a Sub Pop subsidiary, will soon reissue the original albums, but the initial shot out of the canon (pun intended) is this 16-song anthology.

Though Carissa's Wierd's arrangements got more complex as they progressed and added members, there is a hushed beauty that runs throughout these songs. Brooke and Ghetto's voices rarely rise above a whisper (they're best when they sing together), and there's a lovely balance of resignation and determination. The melodies may be delicate, but the mood is heavy with loss, longing and hope. That they're able to pull off dynamic changes within those confines is remarkable: Check out the way "The Color That Your Eyes Changed With the Color of Your Hair" dramatically builds in its 5 1/2 minutes. And if you're not mesmerized by the interplay between Brooke and Ghetto's countermelodies on "Die," chances are you never much cared for Elliott Smith, either.

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