Portastatic Autumn Was a Lark

The DVD revolution has even influenced indie rock release schedules, it seems. After releasing Summer of the Shark, his career-best Portastatic album earlier this year, Mac McCaughan returns with a full-length devoted to deleted scenes and alternate takes to supplement the original. This means one great new song (the title track), several covers, and acoustic versions of old songs and four from Shark. The covers are rather throwaway, with the exception of a couple of Springsteen tunes ("Growin’ Up,” "Bobby Jean”) he probably borrowed from Eric Bachmann’s record collection. The solo acoustic tracks are taken from campus radio broadcasts, with mixed results. It’s telling how much Portastatic have evolved into a band that the fuller arrangements are sorely missed on occasion. Most of them, however, are engaging. When Mac steps to the piano for a spellbinding "Isn’t That the Way,” he sounds like he could be the hippest hotel piano bar singer in the world. (Merge)