The Autumn Defense: Once Around (Yep Roc)

Like every side project, The Autumn Defense is saddled with the fundamental questions of why it exists and what it has to offer apart from its members' well-known day jobs.

Wilco's John Stirratt (who's been with the band since its inception) and Pat Sansone (who joined in 2004) get to stretch out as multi-instrumentalists in The Autumn Defense, but the band seems to function mostly as a vehicle for expression as songwriters.

Once Around is a laid-back, pretty record, one that hints at the broad satisfaction found in life's easy pleasures. And one of those pleasures, it's clear for Stirratt and Sansone, is being in love with the simple joy of playing music—all sorts of music.

The album's centerpiece and title track, "Once Around," is a sort of exploration of the different sounds to which The Autumn Defense is drawn. It's quiet and loud, acoustic and electric, full and spare, all in a meandering 6 1/2 minutes.

Elsewhere is plenty of variety: the jaunty piano of "Back of My Mind," the jangly alt-country of "Tell Me What You Want," the peppy Kinks-esque "The Swallows of London Town," and "Step Easy," which might be the quintessential Autumn Defense song—relaxed and sunny California pop.

The question of how readily The Autumn Defense would find listeners without the Wilco connection might always remain, but Once Around is notable for more than just those Wilco roots. It's a pleasant and moving record, one that doesn't need flash to settle under your skin.

Back Of My Mind - The Autumn Defense by zenitram888
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