Just when they’d all but slipped from pubic consciousness, Idaho have materialized with an oasis at the end of an otherwise dry ’98. Perhaps freed of commercial expectations, main man Jeff Martin has produced his best collection of amber-coated textures and melodies. Moving on from the monochrome of the band’s early LPs, Alas adds subtle dabs of pizzicato violin, marimba and pocket trumpet to Idaho’s palette, of slow-mo guitar strums, feedback washes and Martins intimate baritone, as well affecting back-up vocals from Hole’s Melissa Auf Der Maur and drums by Beck’s Joey Waronker. Rarely have guest cameos served the songs so well. AP

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