Through tragedy and triumph Good Friends Great Enemies have returned with their first record in over two years.
A concise, majestic, magic album, it is best listened to from beginning to end to gain the full effect of its artistry. Some of the songs here are less than a minute long, and yet they are not link tracks, rather full-fledged compositions that express in 44 seconds a total depth of emotion. That is the case with the opener, “I Mean It.” Meanwhile, longer songs, like “Gonna Die” and “Similar Things,” get into jazz explorations that approach mild psychedelia.
It is a quirky, fun and lively record and far more than I could have ever hoped for after Evan Bisbee survived a critical auto accident—but survive he did, and so thankfully so. Clearly, the members of Good Friends Great Enemies are lovers of music from all eras and all genres, yet there is a distinctive American feeling here. There are singles in the form of “Hot Sea Men” (go ahead and laugh, it’s all right), “Middle Class Kenny” and “Freshman Year (Song for Jack).”
The finale is the epic-length (for them) pocket symphony “Contemptorary,” which is both cleverly titled and one of their finest compositions to date. Nothing here is accidental, and the arrangements are stunning. Whether it’s a swift old-time jazz number like the coy piano bounce of “Ike and Biz” or the thought-provoking rave-up rock of “Nunu the Great and Powerful,” every moment is perfectly constructed. Cautiously Poptimistic is the best thing that Good Friends Great Enemies have ever done, and it is one of the most cohesively crafted albums of 2015: charming, brilliant and unexpected in every way.