That Dog: Retreat From The Sun (1997)
While That Dog's earlier albums had a bit of a punkier, harder edge, Retreat puts more focus on the pop hooks, offering a number of simply delightful and impossibly catchy tunes. Which isn't to say the band sounds slick; at times they have the raw guitar sound and biting unadorned vocals of Liz Phair's earlier work (not entirely surprising given that Brad Wood produced both artists). But with some of the more abrasive edges sanded down, the amazing hooks really get a chance to shine.
My two favorite songs on the album, as infectious today as when I first heard them, are a pair of geography-based crush songs. "Minneapolis," the quieter of the pair, finds her falling for a guy at an LA rock club ("I was at the Jabberjaw, cutest boy i ever saw, he was standing behind me, he was such a dream"), only to discover he lives far away in the titular city; while the insanely joyous "Long Island" has her crushing on a boy from even farther away ("You're pretty dreamy for a boy from Long Island, you should come to see me on my
Western horizon... I want to set a place for you at my table, we can sit forever watching reruns on cable...").
But those twin monsters are surrounded by plenty of other nifty ditties. "Never Say Never" is classic 90s alt.rock, something out of the Weezer or Letters to Cleo playbook, punchy pop with crunchy guitars and synths (but, being That Dog, also violin solos); the album's title track is a boppy mid-tempo number full of winning la-la-las; and "Every Time I Try" is a lovely ballad with terrific harmonies and a breathtaking hook. Frankly, the hit ratio here is crazy, making it all the more sad when they disappeared from the scene not long after it was released.
Here's the great video for "Never Say Never":
And here's the new album: