Carissa's Wierd - They'll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996-2003 (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Carissa's Wierd

They'll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996-2003 (2010)

Hardly Art

The claim to fame for Seattle indie rockers Carissa's Wierd is that they're the origin story for Ben Bridwell and Mat Brooke, who would go on to found Band of Horses (Brooke would eventually leave them to found Grand Archives). But this collection, which culls tracks spanning their two full-lengths, an oldies compilation and their last three songs that appeared on a post-mortem live + new tracks assemblage, proves they were so much more than that. (Besides that Jenn Ghetto and Sera Cahoone (S) managed solo careers from the band's ashes, too.) It's also a pretty great release for newcomers like this reviewer.

Just about every track on They'll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996-2003 sounds fresh in a present-day context. You can hear Band of Horses' early blueprints in the slow, carefully morose strum to self-deprecatingly titled opener "Low Budget Slow Motion Soundtrack Song for the Leaving Scene". The mournful violin strings helps warrant the "chamber pop" description the band were often labeled with, but it moves with a graceful restraint that nods toward the "slowcore" tag too (as do many of these tracks).

The pity-inducing, fully engaging "Die", from 2004's I Before E, would have sat well against anything from Tegan and Sara's So Jealous, released just two months prior, while the frail, lower-fi "So You Wanna Be a Superhero" probably inspired An Horse's "Shoes Watch" just a bit. Murder by Death may have adopted some of their early orchestral tension by way of "Brooke Daniels' Tiny Broken Fingers".

There's one early moment in the collection where the band deviates from their pretty melancholy and just get esoterically creepy. "One Night Stand", from the 1999 collection of early tracks, Ugly But Honest, is an abstract, four-track collage of strange noises both vocal and instrumental, seemingly. It flows well into the rough but endearing boy-girl meandering on "You Should Be Hated Here", though.

"Phantom Fireworks" is a beautiful, drifting number from I Before E further proving the band were really cooking at their end. "Blessed Arms That Hold You Tight, Freezing Cold and Alone" is an atmospheric wonder from 2001's You Should Be at Home Here, and it might be the highlight from that album's four tracks making appearances here.

Although the track lengths can be occasionally excruciating at times considering the band's persistent wallowing ("September Come Take This Heart Away"), this collection largely features what I can only imagine are some of Carissa's Wierd's career highs. It's often grievous and heart-rending, but it's also exquisite and well-done, affirming just how well the band's music holds up some years later.

The Color That Your Eyes Changed with the Color of Your Hair

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