Speed The Plough: Wonder Wheel (1991)

Speed the Plough sprung from a related band called The Trypes, which included a number of members of the Feelies, and has operated on and off since the early 1980s.  The band centers around John and Toni Baumgartner, joined by a changing circle of friends (including various Feelies and, later, John & Toni's son Mike, making the band truly a family project).  Their initial run of albums was most comparable to the Feelies' superb The Good Earth, with jangly guitars and a hushed, pastoral vibe, though swapping out some of the more edgy, Velvet Underground-inspired buzz for a traditional UK folk influence, with flutes and organs more prominent than electric guitars.

I think all four of the albums they initially recorded are equally great (they later returned after a break with several new albums, with which I'm a little less familiar but are still quite nice), each sporting a few stand-out low-key pop songs balanced out by some more ethereal, folky tunes.  Wonder Wheel, their second, is highlighted by the excellent "The Tide Won't Tire," a catchy tune with a fizzy guitar hook and a nice vocal turn from Toni, and perhaps their most Feelies-like song (not surprising, given the album is produced by Feelies guitarist Bill Million and includes that band's Brenda Sauter on bass and Stan Demeski on drums).  Opening track "Aeroplane," another Toni-fronted tune, is simply lovely, with nice piano and guitar backing and some pretty harmonies.  "Coal & Courage," a John-helmed piece, moves along at a quicker clip, and the more sprawling "Final Day" is as close to a frenzied Velvet Underground vibe as they'd get, some wicked jams and drones that set it apart from the relative quiet pervading the rest of the record.  "Trains" returns them to more familiar, folk-based ground, while album closer "The Plough & The Stars" is another sweet folk-pop piece with some perky flute-playing amidst the acoustic guitar jangle.

The band's albums can be a little tough to track down, though this one appears to be available for sale on the band's website, and is definitely worth picking up.  There's also a terrific compilation of tracks from the first four albums, The Plough & The Stars, which is easier to chase down and streams on Spotify; it's a great place to start.

Here's an audio rip of "The Tide Won't Tire":
Here's a lovely live-in-studio performance of "The Plough & The Stars":
And a video for "Aeroplane":