Souvlaki (Creation '93, Castle Music '05) Rating: A
Among the essential shoegazer/dreampop albums alongside My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and Ride's Nowhere, among others, Souvlaki is the perfect album for drifting off to sleep to (in fact it's so good in that regard that I rarely make it past the second song!). Much mellower than the aforementioned bands, Slowdive is also similar in that though they did other good stuff (some captured on EPs rather than full-length albums), their best album, in this case Souvlaki, tends to overshadow everything else they ever did. Which is pretty odd actually coming from such an unassuming album, albeit one of uncommon loveliness. At times almost ambient, the band's woozy, gauzy, lullaby-like melodies are always relaxed even when the volume is turned up (like on impressively swirling slow builders such as "Souvlaki Space Station" and "When The Sun Hits"), and if I have a criticism of the album it's that it's more about its immaculate sound than memorable individual songs. That said, there are some great songs, I mean obviously great songs like "Alison" and "40 Days," both of which feature group leader Neil Halstead's plainspoken but affecting vocals along with Rachel Goswell's ethereal female counterpoint. I mean, "Machine Gun" is just an unspeakably gorgeous song, probably my favorite one here, and even the less substantial tracks are perfectly pleasant and pretty if not especially substantial. Still, few albums deliver more pure aural pleasure than Souvlaki, which is both the best starting point and the career peak from this fine band. P.S. Mojave 3, the significantly different if still “dreamy” subsequent band formed by Halstead, Goswell, and late period drummer Ian McCutcheon, is also well worth getting to know.

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