Golden Smog: Weird Tales (1998)
Golden Smog are much closer to the latter. Their three full-length LPs (joined by a few EPs) are all surprisingly great, and the band would stand up well as a legit functioning unit even if the members didn't have those other gigs.
The rotating cast of Golden Smog evolved over time, but for 1998's Weird Tales, their second album, notable members included Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Dan Murphy of Soul Asylum, Gary Louris and Marc Perlman of the Jayhawks, and Kraig Johnson of Run Westy Run (plus Big Star drummer Jody Stephens!). Each contributes original material, and it's all perfectly respectable, never sounding like leftovers they're foisting onto their side gig.
Stylistically, it runs the gamut from Americana to straight power pop, though most is middle-of-the-road rock with a touch of twang. As on each of their albums, Murphy confirms that he's totally wasted in Soul Asylum, as I greatly prefer his incredibly infectious pop tracks to the Dave Pirner songs that define Soul Asylum. Here, his lead-off track "To Call My Own" is a buoyant power pop delight. Louris has a hand in a number of tracks, and "Until You Came Along," "Jane," and particularly the hypnotic "Jennifer Save Me" are at least as good as anything the Jayhawks ever did. Tweedy provides some solid country-tinged rock, "Lost Love" and "I Can't Keep From Talking" cut from the same cloth as Wilco's debut A.M; "Please Tell My Brother" is more straight folk, less catchy (though an ongoing part of Tweedy's solo setlists). And while I'm not familiar with Johnson's band, "Looking Forward To Seeing You" is just flat-out great, twangy Americana pop that begs to kick off every mix tape you'll ever make.
I vacillate on which of their releases I like best. Both 1995's Down By The Old Mainstream and 2006's Another Fine Day have some wonderful tunes; you can't go wrong with any of them.
Here's an audio rip of "To Call My Own":