Great Lake Swimmers are already responsible for one of the year's best songs, "Moving Pictures Silent Films," a fragile breakup sketch that opens the band's eponymous 2004 debut album (brought to a wider audience by Misra's nationally distributed 2005 reissue). But Tony Dekker's Canadian quintet had another album ready to go, even as the first was drawing belated buzz. Great Lake Swimmers' sophomore effort, Bodies And Minds, trades the makeshift grain silo studio of its predecessor for the softer acoustics of a country church, and the songs are a little fuller, with banjo, lap steel, and watery organ shading the stark acoustic-guitar-and-percussion outlines. Dekker still counts too much on atmosphere to cover him when he can't complete a melody, but there are more full-on good songs on Bodies And Minds than Great Lake Swimmers, including the sunny, Byrds-synthesizing "When It Flows," the cozily honest "Various Stages," and the intimate, deceptively childlike "Imaginary Bars." Dekker reveals himself to be capable of surprise. He plays timid, then turns around with a classic aching come-on like "Let's Trade Skins." He's set to woo the romantics.
Great Lake Swimmers' labelmates The Mendoza Line already have a solid reputation for explicating the American way of love through vivid country-rock story-songs. The band's new Full Of Light And Fire is no exception. Taking a somewhat rowdier approach than on last year's Fortune, Mendoza Line co-leaders Timothy Bracy and Peter Hoffmanwith permanent guest vocalist/songwriter Shannon McArdlebarrel through songs like the frenzied "Name Names," which sounds like Bob Dylan fronting Monster-era R.E.M., and the stinging "Mysterious In Black," which uses detective imagery as metaphors for a relationship. The Mendoza Line has yet to break out beyond the cult level in part because the band doesn't have the distinctive personality of the similar-sounding Rilo Kiley or Wilco. But as long as it keeps coming up with songs as arresting and moody as the allusive addiction study "The Lethal Temptress," The Mendoza Line should get its due one day.