Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile
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Label: Capitol
Duration: 45:18
Genre: Alternative Rock

If the two-part title weren't enough of a tip-off, let's make this clear: Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile is a concept album, based on Everclear leader Art Alexakis' divorce. Many pop musicians have mined this territory before, but Alexakis pulls off an ingenious move by dividing his divorce album in two parts and two records, separating falling in love from the fallout. Learning How to Smile is the courtship album, painting a picture of when everything was wonderful. He goes back further than that, returning to his childhood, specifically the sparkling, catchy late-'60s and '70s pop that provided the soundtrack to his coming of age. It's all innocent, from the sounds and melodies to the aesthetic; at first, it's hard to tell that this music was made in the wake of a divorce. As the album unfolds, certain themes of regret, sadness, and longing run to the surface, but they're all coated in glittering pop melodies and big rock riffs that mask the emotions of the songs. And, make no mistake, Alexakis is digging deep into his psyche, especially at the end of the record as the romance begins to fall apart. What makes Learning How to Smile work -- and an album this ambitious could easily have collapsed under its own weight -- is that the songs are strong and smart and are given savvy productions that make them sound even smarter. Very few of Everclear's peers could have pulled off an album that skillfully balances such an arty concept with such strong, strikingly revealing songs. Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1 is the band's best, most consistent effort to date -- and certainly whets the appetite for the sequel.

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Song From An American Movie Pt. 1
Here We Go Again4:10
AM Radio3:56
Brown Eyed Girl4:21
Learning How To Smile3:50
Honeymoon Song3:38
Now That It's Over3:49
Thrift Store Chair2:08
Otis Redding3:56
Unemployed Boyfriend4:15
Annabella's Song4:55
Original Release: 2000-07-11
Composer: Art Alexakis, Joseph Broussard, Greg Eklund, Craig Montoya, Van Morrison, Carol Washington, Ralph Williams
Arranged By: Art Alexakis, Neal Avron
Producer: Art Alexakis, Neal Avron, Lars Fox
UPC: 724349706125, 724352786428