Release Date: Jan 28, 2014
Record label: Yep Roc
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Chamber Pop
Fifth is the fifth album from the Autumn Defense, the side project of longtime Wilco members John Stirratt and Patrick Sansone, and if that doesn't seem like an especially exciting name, it doesn't take long to realize that they put enough imagination into the music that they can be forgiven for not going overboard when dreaming up a title. Much like their brilliant 2007 self-titled album, Fifth is a gorgeous evocation of '70s soft rock fading into sunshine pop, and the craft of the album is unassailable: Stirratt and Sansone's lead vocals and harmonies are outstanding, the arrangements and performances are beautiful and emotionally powerful for all their smooth and sunny exteriors, and the songwriting is superb, at once capturing the sound and feel of a specific era and creating something that's absolutely fresh in its sincerity and subtle force. While it would be easy to make music like this sound treacly and ironic, the Autumn Defense understand that pop music can cover a broad emotional palette, and part of what makes Fifth so effective is Stirratt and Sansone's gift for adding the right amount of shade to their Laurel Canyon sunset fantasies.
With 15 years and five albums now snugly under its belt, this long-running side project from Wilco’s John Stirratt and Pat Sansone has had a full life of its own. The group’s songs are generally solid (if a little indistinguishable), though every now and again they flirt with classic-pop brilliance. I’d venture that it’s these breakthrough moments that keep ‘em coming back album after album between Wilco tours.
As the sidemen in Wilco, John Stirratt and Pat Sansone are somewhat invisible behind frontman Jeff Tweedy. It’s his band; Stirratt and Sansone just play along as bassist and utility multi-instrumentalist, respectively. They’re quiet operators, but they play pivotal roles that have come to shape the band’s grandiose sound. Professional musicians of the highest order, Stirratt and Sansone yield to Tweedy’s artistic ideology most of the time, saving their own creative kicks for The Autumn Defense.
If George Harrison was known as “the quiet Beatle,” Pat Sansone and John Stirratt might be viewed as “the quiet Wilcos. ” Much as Harrison seemed content to let John and Paul get the lion’s share of attention, the duo tends to defer to frontman Jeff Tweedy (and to a degree, fiery lead guitarist Nels Cline) in terms of who’s the visual and psychological focus for the band. Yet also like Harrison, they bring a virtuoso-like musicality to the group—both are multiinstrumentalists at that—not to mention a near-encyclopedic knowledge of and appreciation for the entirety of rock’s rich heritage.