Personnel: Frank DiVanna (vocals); Stephen Douglas (guitar, electric guitar, background vocals); Francis Reader (guitar, electric guitar); Mike Mogis (electric guitar); Frank Seligman, Tracy Dunn (violin); Judy Divis (viola); Paul Ledwon (cello); Simon Dine (piano, Clavinet, organ); Nathaniel Walcott (bass guitar, percussion, background vocals); Paul Livingston (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Mike Mogis.
Recording information: Arc Studios, Omaha, Nebraska; Fireside Sound, Los Angeles, California.
Since the band started in 1987, the Trash Can Sinatras have always been reliable. Every record has delivered exactly what people needed from them: lovely guitar pop songs done with a light touch, deep emotional feelings, and melodies as rich and warm as a late-autumn heat wave. Since their original run ended in the '90s, they've come back regularly to remind people that they are just about the best guitar pop band still going, with a new album roughly every five years or so. Arriving in 2016, Wild Pendulum finds the band in fine form, expectedly. It also finds them doing a bit of sonic experimentation, unexpectedly. With former Adventures in Stereo mastermind Simon Dine on board providing the kind of "sonic scenery" he added to many recent Paul Weller albums and producer Mike Mogis capturing fuller arrangements than usually heard on TCS albums, it's the most sonically interesting album of their long career. The samples, horns, Dine's trademark loops, and extra sounds that creep around the edges of the mix do nothing to detract from the still brilliant songs they continue to write; in fact, quite the opposite. There are lots of tracks here that stand with the best work they've done. Ballads like "What's Inside the Box?" and "I Want to Capture Your Heart" have all the heartbreaking grandeur of their early classics, and it certainly helps that Francis Reader's vocals remain as resonant and true as ever. The more uptempo songs have all the bounce and zest of their predecessors; there are tracks that reach dramatic heights the band has rarely attempted to scale (the epic-sounding "Autumn," for one); and the band even takes an adventurous step out onto the dancefloor on "All Night." They truly haven't lost a step over the years and with Dine and Mogis' help may have made their most satisfying record since their debut, Cake, way back in 1990. It may be even more satisfying and pleasurable given the life experience that has gone into the lyrics and the knowledge that most bands who have been at it this long had surely lost the plot long before they reached this point in their existence. Wild Pendulum makes a strong case that the Trash Can Sinatras may never lose the plot. It's also quite likely the best sophisticated guitar pop album anyone is likely to hear in 2016, made either by whippersnappers or old-timers. ~ Tim Sendra