The Feelies, The Good Earth (1986)
Heading back to college again for one of the most enduring albums I own. The Feelies' 1980 debut, Crazy Rhythms, was pretty much the defining jittery white guy album, frenetic rhythms and jangly guitars, aping Television and the Velvets with a joyously minimalist vision. But their return six years later saw a (mostly) more sedate (and largely reconstituted) band, strumming out gentle, pastoral, frequently acoustic tunes.
The production (from R.E.M.'s Peter Buck) is perfect, letting the band's newfound folksy charm shine through, occasionally opening up into noisier Velvet-esque territory (i.e. album stand-out "Slipping (Into Something)," which escalates from a quiet riff into a dueling guitar freak-out). Simple, poppy tracks like "Let's Go" and the title track, and the road-ready "On The Roof" and "High Road," work perfectly as the soundtrack for a sunny afternoon sitting on the back porch or cruising the back roads in a beat-up Chevy.
The album does a phenomenal job of weaving gentle sonic atmospheres, like the cryptic call and response cacophony of "When Company Comes" and the slow, creeping "Tomorrow Today," which tosses in an infusion of Byrds-styled psychedelia. By the time they drift off into the closing calm of "Slow Down," I invariably find myself eager to head back to the opening track and give it one more spin. I can't count the number of times I've played this since the days I'd kick back on the dorm room couch on a hungover Sunday morning, but it's one of the albums that has yet to lose a drop of its charming appeal.
They put out a couple more albums in the late 80s/early 90s, gradually taking on a harder rocking edge, before calling it quits for a few decades. They've started recording again (2014's Here Before and 2017's In Between), and while they can't quite recapture the same innocent magic of The Good Earth, the post-reunion albums are sturdy enough, offering some of the same captivating jangle and far better than a lot of efforts by bands regrouping well past their sell-by date.
(Alas, while they're also performing again, they limit their gigs to the East Coast, so I haven't been able to see them; I caught them live a number of times back in college and law school, and they were a reliably tight live act, no frills, just one great song after another. Feelies, please come to California!)
Here, lose your sh*t with a little "Slipping (Into Something)" live circa '87:
Buy The Good Earth on Amazon (or a digital download at Bandcamp).