Damon & Naomi, The Sub Pop Years
Married drummer Damon Krukowski and bassist Naomi Yang weren’t kidding when they dubbed their first album as a duo More Sad Hits. After the split of their previous group, the much-imitated Galaxie 500 (with Dean Wareham, later of Luna and Dean & Britta), Damon & Naomi figured they’d make one last record and be done, but after More Sad Hits, Sub Pop signed the couple and issued four more albums, including a live disc recorded in San Sebastian. Damon & Naomi avoided the mid-’90s alt-rock gold rush, tending to the melancholic folk-rock they’d pioneered in G500, later collaborating with Tokyo fellow travelers Ghost (whose electric guitarist Michio Kurihara would join them on the live set). Along with their small publishing house, Exact Change, and Krukowski’s side career as a book and music critic, they’ve become a model of bohemian enterprise without compromising their vision.
So it is that The Sub Pop Years doesn’t necessarily call up its specific era: these songs exist out of time, just the way Damon & Naomi wanted it. Both Krukowski and Yang sing long, hazy, drifting vocal lines; even when things get loud, the arc remains smooth and a hair unsettling. That’s especially true when Ghost helps out: “New York City,” presented in the San Sebastian live version, and “The Great Wall,” from 2000′s Damon & Naomi with Ghost, are peaks, with the latter being both the collection’s longest (eight-and-a-half minutes) and loveliest track, building but never quite peaking, or seeming to need to — an apt metaphor for the duo’s career.