Semisonic is a band that will forever be known for their one hit-Closing Time, which is a shame, because the band was far more than a one hit wonder in terms of quality, as Feeling Strangely Fine, their second studio album, shows.
Semisonic, like Third Eye Blind and a host of other bands of the late 90's, is firmly an adult contemporary band, with significantly better than average lyrics and tight hooks. And while the band hasn't released anything in more than four years, Closing Time is likely to remain a favorite of 90's A/C.
The thing that seperates from Semisonic from many other bands of the era, like Third Eye Blind and Hootie and the Blowfish is how much they incorporate the piano. Many of their songs are driven by the keys as opposed to the strings, which helps differentiate themselves.
1) Closing Time is, of course, the hit. You've heard this song. Everyone has. And, it's a great song, which will probably find uses in commercials and movies for years to come. 4/4
2) Singin' In Sleep, though, proves that Semisonic was a legitimate force on the A/C scene. Like Closing Time, it boasts some of the more intelligent lyrics on the scene, and has an even better hook than Closing Time. It's an up tempo gem. 4/4
3) Never You Mind slows the tempo down but doesn't lose a step in terms of quality. Nice harmonies on this one. A/C simply doesn't get much better. 4/4
4) Never You Mind veers into Elton John territory-it sounds like the bombastic one before his music got bogged down in gaudy overproduction. This one also has a nice bridge where it switches gears. 4/4
5) Secret Smile has a feel to it slightly like the Verve, minus the British accent and all. It's not quite up to the level of the previous four, as the hook isn't quite as strong, but this is still a very nice track. 3.5/4
6) DND's feel reminds me more of Hootie and the Blowfish, but lyrically better. 3.5/4
7) Completely Pleased doesn't quite succeed, as singer/songwriter Dan Wilson goes a little too sexual and loses the sweet vibe of the previous tracks. It's a solid track beyond those complaints. 2.5/4
8) This Will Be My Year returns to form, with great lyricism from Wilson and a moderately harder feel with the twirling distorted guitars. The verses are great, but the chorus doesn't quite have the same pull as the earlier tracks. 3/4
9) All Worked Out is another track with a very Elton feel to it. Wilson doesn't quite have the vocal chops of EJ, but has better lyrics and good harmonies. The shifting from soft to heavier doesn't quite go as smoothely as it could have, though. 3/4
10) California is nice, if unremarkable A/C. It doesn't hold you like the early tracks, but is still nice listening. 2.5/4
11) She Spreads Her Wings is probably the most melodically adventurous track on the album. It really doesn't have much drive to it and is forgettable. 2.5/4
12) Gone to the Movies is a ballad type track, with Wilson and an acoustic guitar doing the brunt of the work. It's a very nice song but it wonders some and is somewhat repetitive. 3/4
Semisonic suffers from the same fate of many other bands of the era-they're somewhat singles oriented. There's a collection of early songs that are top notch, but after that the album loses a little steam. If they'd have kept up the focus and quality of the opening few tracks, this would've been near classic.
As it is, with the strength of the early material and the acceptability of most of the later songs, this is well worth buying.