PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Carissa's Wierd: They'll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996 - 2003

Lost treasure or overblown myth?

Carissa's Wierd

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

Label: Hardly Art
US Release Date: 2010-07-13
UK Release Date: 2010-07-26

Carissa's Wierd definitely has a reputation, even if no one's heard the music. The band split up in 2003, virtually unknown outside of their Seattle home base. Left in their wake was a shitload of out-of-print music and an indie-rock legend. Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock supposedly climbed through their apartment window drunk and was so impressed by their music, he chose them as a tour opener.

Oh, yeah, and there were some famous people in the band. Jenn Ghetto and Matt Brooke co-founded Carissa's Weird in 1995, patiently refining a hushed, emotional indie rock playbook, recording on four tracks in Ghetto's bedroom while Grandma slept in the next room. After the band's demise, Brooke and occasional drummer Ben Bridwell formed Band of Horses, which Brooke left after one album to form Grand Archives, and Ghetto started releasing solo albums under the name S. One could easily play "Six Degrees of Wierd" and connect the dots to pretty much any indie-rock band currently out there. We've heard their names; we've heard the stories. We've also heard some big talk about these songs as some sort of holy indie relic. But is Carissa's Wierd really worth the hype?

The good news is that we don't have to go on much of an excavation to find out. Hardly Art has finally put an end to the years of mystery, issuing this loose best-of collection, which highlights tracks from all of their albums, as an official "Hello!" to the world (plans are to eventually reissue all of the band's studio albums). Lost treasure? Overblown myth? They'll Only Miss You When You Leave: 1996 – 2003, as it turns out, is really somewhere in the middle. Any Band of Horses or Grand Archives fan will want to pick up this release simply for completist purposes. Those with a soft spot for chamber rock will find a handful of tracks to cherish.

"Low Budget Slow Motion Soundtrack Song for the Leaving Scene" sets the tone for the whole project. With Ghetto and Brooke's tender unison vocals barely louder than a whisper, the childlike melody is brought to life by acoustic strums, an uncertain violin, and the surprisingly effective promise, "I will be waiting / I'll just keep waiting for you". It's the closest the track comes to a chorus, instead opting for repetitive chords and cyclical lyric fragments that waft through the speakers like debris through a highway-bound car window. While these songs retain a sense of quiet grace and intimacy (an essential part of any chamber rock release), there is a palpable sense of spontaneity at work. Many moments sound like the result of impromptu jam sessions, albeit very reserved ones.

The album starts to bleed together the longer it plays. Listening through the whole disc in one sitting is a bit of a chore, which is surprising considering this is essentially a best-of release. "Original" is definitely not the operative word here. A lot of these songs could be Modest Mouse b-sides, particularly the bent guitar drone of "Phantom Fireworks" and "Brooke Daniels' Tiny Broken Fingers" which, with its trippy, galloping guitar and violin sweeps, feels like a Moon and Antarctica leftover. Then again, Moon and Antarctica is a fucking great album, so it's not exactly a bad place to be.

If you're curious, stay that way. If you're not, don't bother. There's not a single essential track here, and there is certainly not a bad one. This is not a holy relic, not a lost classic. It's simply a collection of good-to-really good indie-rock songs.

"I never asked to be here", Ghetto swears in the tear-jerking, suicidal climax of "Die", her fragile voice circling above a weeping violin and piano. It's the most enthralling moment of the whole collection. But her simple existential lament also serves as an effective calling card for the band itself. Somehow, these songs sound confident, if fragile, content to exist as basically non-existent. But they're here now, and, perfect or not, we should be glad they decided to show up.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.