Thrill Jockey fanatics need not fear: Even if you loathe Steely Dan and the Carpenters, you'll be hard-pressed not to fall under the sway of at least a handful of tracks here. The melodies are too infectious to resist, and Prewitt's production work has evolved into a symphonic beast of staggering proportions. Harpsichords, flutes, cellos, mellotrons -- it's pretentious as hell, but each bit works, adding to the overall feel of each song and moving them toward a greater emotional whole.
Three is chock full of these guilty pleasures. "Two Can Play" rocks like a Burt Bacharach-penned song about getting along well with others that would have been right at home on PBS's Electric Company. "Gifts of Love" contains giddily stupid la-dee-la and doot-doot harmonies, evenly balanced by closing orchestral swirls. "Behind Your Sun" is overtly grandiose, morphing from a slow, moody burner into a horn-filled celebratory Renaissance Faire madrigal. The only real clunker is "No Defense," a sprawling, multipart epic about aging that opens as a rocker, changes to a high-speed sing-along, then shifts again to slow and sappy refrains of "Oh babe/Hold me/You've got to act your age," complete with pouting female back-up singers that make it feel more like Godspell than the intended soul-music mimicry.
Thankfully, there's a wide range of material on this record, just like the clouds that adorn the album's front and back covers -- one containing a pair of lips, the other pouring rain. Corny? You bet. Overly earnest? Like an emo teen. Wonderful? Without a doubt. Unlike the Sea and Cake front man Sam Prekop, who seems to be stuck in a breathy, sputtering rut, Prewitt continues to fall further away from the faux-jazz twitterings that have defined much of his earlier work -- and to good measure.