Album Review: Semisonic – You’re Not Alone

Semisonic You're Not Alone album cover

Well, what took so long?

After decades of inactivity, ok maybe a little exaggeration but not by much, Semisonic returns with the EP You’re Not Alone, the band’s first collection of new music in nearly 20 years.

Semisonic captured fame and fortune after their second album Feeling Strangely Fine, which had the hits “Closing Time” and “Secret Smile,” a rise documented by drummer’s Jacob Slichter’s sometimes hilarious book So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star. After the band’s third album All About Chemistry, singer and guitarist Dan Wilson, bass guitarist John Munson and Slichter didn’t exactly break-up but pursued other ventures.

The pop trio hailing from Minneapolis, MN returned to the stage a few times in recent years to commemorate the 20th anniversaries of their debut album Great Divide and then Feeling Strangely Fine giving hope to fans the band wasplanning some type of return.  Indeed, Semisonic unveiled a couple of new songs at those shows that would help create the backbone for You’re Not Alone.

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Semisonic You’re Not Alone Album Review

The five-song EP You’re Not Alone stays true to the Semisonic sound with fun easy-going pop chords giving a mostly upbeat 15 minutes of fresh music.

 You’re Not Alone opens with the title track and first release off the album that arrived in July. Wilson brings a super catchy structure to the opening and middle verse and 20 years ago this song would probably dominate the airwaves, probably not as much as “Closing Time” but close second.

The somewhat somber “All It Would Take” starts out with a soft piano before hitting a quicker rock pace and settling on a sweet hopeful melody. “Basement Tapes” is the rocker of the bunch that allows Wilson to open up the fretboard more while Slichter punches a bit harder. This could easily be a Gin Blossoms song, even the name, and the first time I notice a vocal similarity between Wilson of Semisonic and Robin Wilson of Gin Blossoms.

The shortest of the lot, “Don’t Make Up Your Mind” gives you a fun and simple pop song. It doesn’t seem like they spent much time on it but hardly a skipper. Finally, “Lightning” lumbers a bit, a near country feel to start, but the heaviest of the five song collection that takes a few listens to appreciate.

The extended absence shows no ill-effect to Semisonic’s songwriting. Wilson sounds just as he did so many years ago and this band has carved a special softer, alternative rock niche that suits them well and completely defines their tone. A mostly power pop trio, with some songs coming in a step or two below, this threesome boasts a unique bond  and similar musical vision that gives Semisonic  a unique endearing influence on the music landscape.

 Grade: B+

Semisonic You’re Not Alone Track List

  1. You’re Not Alone
  2. All It Would Take
  3. Basement Tapes
  4. Don’t Make Up Your  Mind
  5. Lightning