The Jayhawks: Smile (2000)
The title track kicks off the album in grand fashion, a sweeping baroque pop tune with soaring Beach Boys harmonies and a simply gorgeous chorus, one of the band's most winning tracks. The arguably trite sentiment come across with such passion and shimmering sonics that it's impossible not to be sucked in. Nearly as great is "What Led Me To This Town," a quieter tune but once again elevated by stunning harmonies.
"I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" is probably the most straight-ahead pop-rock song, an infectious track that would do Tom Petty proud. ("Life Floats By" is an even harder rocking tune, and another one that seems to channel some Petty.) Some of the more unadorned ballads shout back to their twangier days, like "A Break In The Clouds," calling attention to the lovely backing vocals of keyboardist Karen Grotberg.
While the album as a whole stands up well as a consistent work, ideal for sunny Sunday afternoon listening, the standout pop tracks also work great as mixtape contributions, terrific singles that highlight the band's comfort with a killer hook.
Here's an audio rip of "What Led Me To This Town" (damn, those harmonies!):