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  The Sub Pop Years (1995 - 2002)  
  Damon and Naomi  
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Damon and Naomi are a duo who make light pop music. They got their start as the rhythm section in Galaxy 500 many years ago, Naomi on bass and Damon on drums. Now, Damon plays guitar as well, Naomi has expanded her palette to include percussion and harmonium, and they both share vocal duties.

Back in 2002, i reviewed their album Damon and Naomi with Ghost, a very pleasant album that featured them collaborating with a Japanese band of similar nature. That album was, apparently, their third album on Sub Pop Records. This CD covers that album, plus three others, wrapping up their relationship with the label in a 15 song compilation that draws from their best tracks from those records. The pair now run their own label, and this is released by them on their label, but is about things they did for another label. Kind of confusing, i know, but there it is.

The seven years that this CD covers was a period of growth for Damon and Naomi as artists. Their first solo record, 1995's The Wondrous World of Damon and Naomi is pretty much a folk record. Guitars strum along, and either Damon on Naomi sings lightly, while there is some vague percussion. For example, the fun Forgot to Get High from that record and also featured here, sounds almost like Simon and Garfunkel or early R.E.M. in the guitarwork, accompanied by Damon's voice fed through echo, Naomi shaking the tambourine, and a quiet vocal loop. This is not miles away from plain folk music, and the three songs featured here show that quite plainly.

Their second record, The Playback Singers, was more along the lines of what one would expect from the pair. Naomi plays a bit of bass, Damon is at the drum kit, and there is a lot more guitarwork. Not to say that they are rocking out hard here, but the three songs from this album that made it to the compilation, including the excellent I'm Yours, come across as very similar to what Galaxie 500 were doing. This is vaguely mopey pop music.

However, with 2000's Damon and Naomi with Ghost, they really reached new heights. More or less adding Ghost guitarist Michio Kurihara to the lineup, their music seems to transcend both pop and folk, while not really escaping from either all the way. They have become a slowcore band with their aching melodies owing a debt to the pioneering work that Low did in the late 1990s. This is beautiful music, and four tracks are included here. These include the stunning Jewish folk tale, Judah and the Maccabees and The Mirror Phase, both of which are lovely songs with aching vocals.

Apparently after that record, Kurihara joined Damon and Naomi on tour, and they gave us the Song to the Siren: Live in San Sebastian record. Five songs are featured here, including a lovely cover of the Tim Buckley classic, Song to the Siren. Kurihara's playing is not heavy handed; he strums or picks out delicate melodies that accompany the voices very nicely.

So, this is lovely music. Damon and Naomi have made consistently pretty music, and they have done an excellent job of compiling a good "Introduction To" CD here. If you like this type of thing but have not listened to them before now, then this is a great selection to pick up. It shows that there is a lot to enjoy in the work of this act, and isn't that really the point of this record? However, by the same logic, people who are fans of the band and already have their records will find nothing new here aside from the sequencing. Such is the nature of the compilation CD.

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   Album: Damon & Naomi with Ghost


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