Who would have thought that an ensemble featuring some of today's leading pop practitioners would come up with an album that's so ... well ... old school? On Circles, the second effort by the Autumn Defense -- a loosely configured combo led by singer/guitarist John Stirratt (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo), singer/guitarist/keyboardist Pat Sansone (Josh Rouse, Jenifer Jackson), and bassist/producer Brad Jones -- the musical references stretch all the way back to the early Seventies via breezy ballads filtered through a Pacific Coast sheen. Even the song titles seem to revel in a hippie pipe dream, with names like "The Sun in California," "Written in the Snow," and "Tuesday Morning" evoking the breezy harmony-drenched sounds of the Beach Boys; America; Crosby, Stills and Nash, and other icons of that earlier era. Likewise, the wistful sentiments that glide so gently through "Silence," "Why I'm Like This," and "Iowa City Adieu" further enhance the album's dreamy disposition, recalling village greens, Christmas trees, and carefree days gone by.
Still the Autumn Defense offers more than mere nostalgia. In a world that careens from crisis to crisis, there's a certain reassurance to be gained from these oh-so-mellow ruminations. Which is reason enough to give Circles a spin.