Google the Minnesota power/pop trio Semisonic and the first listing will always be their big hit single for 1998, “Closing Time.” Of course, I don’t know this personally, but I’ve heard from some artist friends that writing a hit like that, where a fluky fun pop song written to celebrate your soon-to-be-born child becomes the go-to sing-along for a generation, can lead to writer’s block. Once you have that kind of success – omnipresent airplay and a nomination for the Grammy for Rock Song of the Year – it’s hard to follow as everything you come up with seems to pale by comparison.
Turns out, singer/songwriter Dan Wilson managed to write songs for The (Dixie) Chicks (“Not Ready to Make Nice”), Adele (“Someone Like You”), and others, but until recently hadn’t come up with anything that sounded like or worked for Semisonic, which last released an album in 2001. Nevertheless, the band played a couple reunion shows in 2017, introducing two new songs, “Basement Tapes” and “You’re Not Alone,” two of the strongest tracks of the 5 on this new EP.
On this brief 5-song EP, however, Semisonic returns in reliable pop/rock form, barely skipping a beat. “Basement Tapes” and “You’re Not Alone” find Wilson at the top of his pop hook game, writing lyrics that that make and immediate connection. The three other songs find these former Trip Shakespeare alumni delivering fun, catchy songs that continue that band’s legacy of accessible, enjoyable power pop, compelling enough to leave us wanting more.
Key Tracks: “You’re Not Alone” / “Basement Tapes”
Artists With Similar Fire: Material Issue / Better Than Ezra / Nada Surf
-Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb