The opening track to the fifth installment of Laura’s Best-Of series picks up where things left off, hearkening back to The Mother We Share from last year’s album. From there we get into faux-somber territory with Stay With Me, but are rescued back into genuineness with the powerful picture of “the bow, the dip, the woo” in Esso’s Coffee.
A highlight of this first side is Katie Queen of Tennessee, and one wonders if Laura has dedicated this track to Gracie, who is truly the queen of Tennessee. In any case, the catchy melody backed perfectly by syncopated strings is enough to add “must be named Katie” to your online dating profile.
From Tennessee we’re taken to a saloon in Texas and an old timey piano with I Know It’s Wrong. An unexpected star of the next track, Slow Motion, is Chester Van Huss’s clarinet, perfectly complimenting the lead vocals.
The side closes strong with three tracks: When You Were Mine, a throwback to the 80’s that likely should have a smoke machine in the music video; Brill Bruisers, a love child of OK GO and the Decembrists; and finally Archie Marry Me. Coincidentally, when sorted by artist, “Marry Me” appears in my library next to Sister Golden Hair (with the lyrics “I ain’t ready for the altar”), resulting in a cross-decade call and answer duet.
Beyonce is the headline artist on the B sides - or should I say, the Bey sides - but she’s overshadowed by some stellar tracks from far less well known artists. We hear more syncopation right off the bat from The Both in Milwaukee, and then get a driving, upbeat love ballad to Alexandra.
Later on, Kacey Musgraves has been replaced from last year’s album by Nickel Creek’s Destination. Not since BNL’s “Jane” has there been a more memorable, singable bass note as at the end of the bridge here.
If Kishi Bashi’s Philosophize In It had an accompanying video I picture it having bright scattered colors, something like a Jackson Pollock painting. It would also have a cameo from the Flaming Lips since it draws a good deal of inspiration from them.
The two Dance numbers anchor the home stretch of the B sides, and we imagine the adjacent placement must have been deliberate. Upon first listening Derniere Danse seems to be the epic, anthem candidate, but it wears out its welcome a bit with additional plays. It’s ripe for a less dramatic cover. Indila’s rendition sounds like it’s actually the cover that’s already been remixed for the night club or the opening credits of the next James Bond flick. Stolen Dance in fact wins the Dance dance-off title, with its singable lyrics and boogeyable beat.