For some reason, the best pop music seems to revolve around emotional turmoil. Many bands revel in this classic juxtaposition, but Quasi's queasy interband psychology may further explain a bit of its bleak subject matter: Members Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes were once married, and the emotional masochism of their continued collaboration may be the root of some of Quasi's darker lyrics. Coomes, however, is just as likely to take out his anguish on his trusty Roxichord (an electric harpsichord) as he is on his former spouse, who for her part works up a wonderful storm on drums. The Roxichord, unique though it may be, is still not Quasi's greatest asset. That designation goes to Coomes' great songs: They're morbid mediations imbued with the melodic spirit and baroque musicianship of The Kinks and The Beatles. "It's Hard To Turn Me On" is Coomes' beautiful, beguiling anti-ballad, chronicling the personal differences between two lovers, while Weiss—who also plays in Sleater-Kinney—sings "Tomorrow You'll Hide" with the kind of sweetness that would normally be at odds with melancholic lines like, "Do you miss me? / Am I just a memory?" "You Fucked Yourself," meanwhile, is an ironic little waltz that laughs in the face of misery, and "Ape Self Prevails In Me Still" is a kooky piece of garage-rock that sounds like Coomes' work in the defunct Bay Area band The Donner Party. The ostensible highlight of Featuring "Birds" is, of course, the song "Birds," which is just a bunch of bird noises. Bringing so much attention to such a frivolous "song" may be the pair's modest way of shirking praise, but Coomes and Weiss deserve what they get.

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