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up the country
The Sixth Great Lake
Up the Country

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I've yet to discern a difference between The Essex Green and their alter-egos, The Sixth Great Lake; they have the same members, the same sound, share the same label, and use the same retro-cover art. One uses the Elephant 6 logo on their releases, while the other evidently feels the name change also distinguishes them from the E6 tag.

Up The Country is an altogether solid and mood-enveloping listen, yet the album is far from a pastoral masterpiece. While outshining the previous Essex Green full-length, it fails to live up to the promise of the band's initial, self-titled EP. This band has the potential to release an album of Belle and Sebastian proportions, but came up a bit short on this attempt.

Up the Country fully acknowledges its '60s posturing and finds the band turning their backs on whatever minimal trace of Kindercore-cutesy-pop they had in them -- in the process ridding themselves of any pretense of quasi-prescience. Yeah, I thought their past blend of '60s pop suffused with neo-twee (whatever that means) leanings was sorta modern -- if not in the same way a new David Bowie or Lou Reed album can be modern. In that sense, this sounds more like a Ladybug Transistor release (another Essex Green/Sixth Great Lake permutation) than it does an Essex Green/Sixth Great Lake album. There's not a drastic difference, but a difference exists.

The album's success lies in its ability to tap into universal emotions. It feels like a post-apocalyptic walk in the only garden that survived a nuclear holocaust. Dazzled and droll, you meander out of your underground-shelter. Giving an oblong glance left you suddenly catch a crimson gust of roses adjacent to a flaccid family of pink lilies in an otherwise barren wasteland. You sit. You smile. Happiness and tranquillity seem to converge, spawning a subjectively new-sprung, delightfully restrained emotional force, and for a brief moment, as the album ends, you feel a sort of everlasting content.

"Yo, captain...Pass the bong!"

"Oh, sorry, man." Giving a somewhat bemused head-shake, you suddenly can't help but feel a little worldly in the presence of others. "I was just thinking about something...hey Jason, who was that?"

"The new Essex Green -- err -- Sixth Great Lake album. Stupid, cutesy name swapping..."

"I'm really into it.." you say.

Your friend Larry, who has remained quiet until now, finally finds the right opportunity to chime in with his usual pseudo-informed criticism.

"Whatever...I guess it's good if you like boring, cliched, pop from the '60s."

You've had all you can take. Lacing up your bright-red Sauconys and pulling a sweater over a light pink Of Montreal shirt, you blurt out, "You just don't get it, man!" and race for the exit, slamming the door before Larry can give his compulsory retort.

-- John Wolfe
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