Though Wilco bassist John Stirratt had a songwriting credit and lead vocal on the band’s first album, subsequent releases proved the band would be Jeff Tweedy’s vision, so Stirratt sought a side-project outlet for his own material. He teamed up with Mississippian Pat Sansone in the Autumn Defense, mining a vein not dissimilar to Wilco’s but with a more intimate feel. Circles, their second album, is a wondrously low-key record; guitar strings and pianos intertwine softly to create slightly jazz-inflected folk-pop landscapes colored by the sweet voices of Sansone and Stirratt. The empty-streets scene of the melancholy opening track, “Silence,” is set at 2:45 a.m.; ringing stringed instruments ricochet against gentle strains of feedback, bringing the wee-hours vignette to life. Everything flows from that beginning; the mood is never broken through a series of mesmerizing numbers ranging from the ever-so-slightly uptempo dreamer “The World (Will Soon Turn Our Way)” to the lounge-flavored reverie “Tuesday Morning.” They cast their spell so subtly but effectively that when they reach the title-track conclusion and its horn-accented echoing mantra — “All these thoughts that fill my head, begin to grow” — their music has indeed transcended from the head to the heart and soul.
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