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Slow Note from a Sinking Ship

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Album Review

As a side project of Superchunk's Mac McCaughan, Portastatic provides an outlet for ideas that would sound out of place on a Superchunk album, and others that would fit right in. Playing by himself for the most part — with some help from local musicians — and recorded on a four track, the project has a modest low-fi feel. Quieter and gentler than his regular gig, Mac experiments with analog synths, lap steel, and other instruments, while creating songs with a soft, somber quality about them. While tracks like "San Andreas" and "Taking You With Me" could be Superchunk outtakes, the balance of the album swings from acoustic odes like "Skinny Glasses Girl," to the plush lo-fi atmospheric drone of "The Angels of Sleep," to the Armed Forces-era new wave synth of "A Cunning Latch." Admittedly, there are at least a half-dozen throw-away tracks, but fans of Superchunk, who are used to Mac's voice, will enjoy this album even more than the last Portastatic, because it boasts the same bittersweet melodies and melancholy subjects of his main band with his best solo songwriting to date.


Formed: 1992 in United States

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Mac McCaughan became an indie rock hero while fronting Superchunk and by founding and managing the successful Merge Records -- Portastatic was the outlet for his solo recordings and songs that didn't quite fit his day job band. The side project began in 1992 when Tom Scharpling of 18 Wheeler Records asked McCaughan to release some of his lo-fi four-track recordings; he obliged with the singles "Sandals with White Socks" and "Starter." Then in 1994 McCaughan released an entire Portastatic album, I...
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Slow Note from a Sinking Ship, Portastatic
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