The Bird and the Bee Sides
Leave it to those crazy kids in Relient K to aim for the title of "longest EP ever" with The Bird and the Bee Sides, easily the most ambitious ancillary collection the band has assembled thus far. The disc was released at a time when the quintet's label, Gotee Records, dissolved its partnership with EMI, which owned a minority stake in the small, Franklin, TN-based company. It almost appears as if this sense of autonomy and liberation allowed the group and its benefactors to clean out the closet and compile highlights from all their previous EPs — six in all — many of which are out of print and predated the group's major-label breakthroughs, mmhmm and Five Score and Seven Years Ago. Throughout the duration of this 13-track stretch, it's fun to trace the evolution of Relient K from silly funnymen to straight-faced modern rockers: the band's customary pop-punk rears its head all along, but there are also acoustic ballads, synth-caressed '80s pop, and a nod or two to Ben Folds-styled sensitivity. But there's more: seemingly aware that no number of warmed-over rarities or B-sides necessarily justifies the price of a full album, Relient K went a step further and recorded 13 new songs, discreetly included in this bundle as the "Nashville Tennis EP". Since it's not really a new studio album, frontman Matthew Thiessen went ahead and relinquished some of the singing and songwriting duties to his bandmates, resulting in sessions that aren't nearly as pristine or fleshed-out as those of a de facto Relient K project, but that are still serviceable in the context of an in-between non-album. Enjoyed as a whole, The Bird and the Bee Sides is an all-around nice gesture — a more than generous gift to fans and an EP with one of the highest bang-for-buck ratios in the history of modern rock.