Relient K fans have reason to rejoice, as their boys from Canton, Ohio are putting out not one, but two projects on July 1st. Releasing on one disc, The Nashville Tennis EP/The Birds and the Bee Sides is one half all new music, and one half previously released and unreleased rarities. The Nashville Tennis EP sports thirteen (yes, thirteen) new songs that all have a nice, stripped down, back porch, southern feel to them. Not that the whole thing is like a nice nap in a hammock, but short, sweet, and simple is the name of the game. They are all a joy to listen to, and keep you coming back for more.
Though there are thirteen songs included on the first half/collection of the disc, it is fair to call it an EP, because it does not feel like one coherent project. Rather, it feels like a collection of nice, peaceful (for the most part) songs that fit well on a disc, but do not give the impression of unity. Still, for someone who is usually all about starting on track one and listening all the way through every time, it is a lot easier on The Nashville Tennis EP to skip around and listen to favorites, rather than listening to the whole thing as a cohesive piece of work.
Each member of the band took a turn writing and providing vocals for a song included on the EP, which gives the whole thing a lot of personality. "The Last, the Lost, the Least," penned and performed by bassist John Warne, is a quick, smart, rock cut that wags a finger at the strong for not standing up for the weak, while Ethan Luck's "No Reaction" feels a lot like a 90s Christian punk rock track that'll either take you back to your roots or make you question how it could possibly pass on a Relient K record. I tend to take the former point of view.
Songs like "You'll Always Be My Best Friend" and "I Just Want You to Know" are simple, sweet, and smile-inducing. Others, like "The Scene and Herd" and the aforementioned "The Last, the Lost, the Least" are faster, and keep things from getting too complacent. Overall, the EP offers a very nice variety of tracks that keep you on your feet, or perhaps relaxing on a sofa.
The second half of the disc is the nearly-as-cleverly-named The Birds and the Bee-Sides. It spans Relient K's entire career, with some acoustic renditions of previously released songs, as well as some favorites from their rare EPs (Not to mention extremely hard to find tracks from The Vinyl Countdown).
Hardcore fans of the band should have some of this stuff already. It includes the original tracks from the Employee of the Month EP, as well as one of the demos from the Creepy EP. And the acoustic renditions ("Up and Up" and "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been") have probably been acquired one way or another by the devoted. But the big winner here is the inclusion of all four tracks from The Vinyl Countdown, available for the first time on CD format. "Five Iron Frenzy Is Either Dead or Dying" (And its ska version) is a silly little tribute to the band, while the quick, witty "The Vinyl Countdown" takes down kids in our post-vinyl world.
Other b-sides on the album include previously unreleased demos for songs called "Here I Go" and "The Stenographer." It is unclear when these were recorded, but they are both very enjoyable. "Here I Go" is fast and catchy, while "The Stenographer" is an ambient, piano-driven piece. They sound as though they were both recorded around the same time, but it is hard to tell.
Overall, this is a very enjoyable collection of songs from a band that seems to continually outdo themselves, even when it comes to their between-album EPs. With so much to choose from, it'd be hard to not find something you liked. Whether you dig on the retro 90s punk rock "No Reaction," or the sweet, sentimental "You'll Always Be My Best Friend," or the wit of "The Vinyl Countdown," there's no lack of quantity on The Nashville Tennis EP/The Birds and the Bee-Sides. It's the quality, however, that'll keep you coming back.- PReview date: 6/5/08, Reviewed: 6/29/08; written by Josh Taylor
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