I recently picked up the new Fountains Of Wayne 2-CD set titled Out-Of-State Plates
. It's a B-sides and rarities collection, containing 28 songs that the band recorded between 1994 and 2005. Yes, the band has been around that long, despite the fact that they received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 2003. In case you don't recognize the name, Fountains Of Wayne were the band who scored a top 20 hit with "Stacy's Mom", from their 2003 album Welcome Interstate Managers
(which IMHO is one of the best albums of its year). Their power-pop sound usually combines hooks and humor with a sophisticated sound. Like most odds-and-sods collections, Out-Of-State Plates
does have some inconsistency, but far less than you would expect from a set of songs recorded over the course of 11 years. In fact, the second of the two discs is quite solid. The newer songs tend to be the better ones. This is not surprising, because this band has so far been improving with age. All three of their proper albums (the first was Fountains Of Wayne
from 1996, the second was Utopia Parkway
from 1999) are fine, but they've gotten better as they've gone along. If they can maintain that upswing, then they will truly be a band to watch. The sheer quantity of enjoyable songs on Out-Of-State Plates
makes it worthwhile. The cover songs that appear on this collection are interesting: the band covers Dionne Warwick, ELO, Aztec Camera, Ricky Nelson, and Britney Spears ("Baby One More Time" is actually a good song in their hands).
The main singing/songwriting duo of Fountains Of Wayne are Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood. Schlesinger wrote the title song to the 1996 Tom Hanks movie That Thing You Do!
Since 1994, Schlesinger has also been a full-time member of the alt-pop band Ivy. That trio is rounded out by the husband-and-wife team of multi-instrumentalist Andy Chase and French-born singer Dominique Durand. Ivy's sound is dreamy and stylish pop, clearly distinguished by Durand's seductively creamy vocals. Their 1994 EP Lately
and their 1995 full-length debut Realistic
are low-budget indie-label delights. Their 1997 album Apartment Life
, released on Atlantic Records, delivered more of the wonderful same with more sophisticated production. The 2001 album Long Distance
was also good, although the trio's sound seemed to have settled into a semi-predictable formula. Their 2002 album Guestroom
was a dandy collection of cover songs, featuring tributes to such varied artists as the Cure, the Go-Betweens, the Ronettes, the Blow Monkeys, and French singer Serge Gainsbourg. Ivy's style lent itself well to these songs. Ivy's most recent album, In The Clear
, was released earlier this year. Schlesinger and Chase have come a long way as producers, and this album is Ivy's most polished album to date. It still has the essential Ivy sound, although it could almost be mistaken for Dido.
While Schlesinger was busy with Fountains Of Wayne's recent success, Chase and Durand also kept busy with two strong side projects released on Chase's label Unfiltered. Chase and Durand formed a group called Paco with two other musicians, Michael Hampton and Gary Maurer. Their 2004 album This Is Where We Live
did have noticeable Ivy ingredients -- Durand's voice and Chase's trip-hop arrangements -- but the other two songwriters/multi-instrumentalists added a slight alt-rock edge. Most of the results sound like Garbage (the group, that is, and that's meant as a compliment).
Also, Chase recorded a Durand-less album in 2003 under the name Brookville, called Wonderfully Nothing
. Brookville had a more laid-back sound, not unlike Ivy's dreamy pop with elements of smooth jazz. Chase handled vocal duties. Its sound was experimental but relaxing and accessible. If Ivy can be described as sounding like Portishead without the bleakness, then Brookville can similarly be described as resembling Radiohead without the chilly tension. Brookville is currently recording a second album due in early 2006.
Fountains Of Wayne official site:http://www.fountainsofwayne.com
Ivy official site:http://www.thebandivy.com